Brian Elliot’s Halloween Costume. They beat us at everything!
The Blues have played just 9 games this season, and despite 4 games in hand, are ahead of the Jets in the standings. But the Jets have already beaten the Blues once this year, and if I know anything about science, it’s that fighter jets demolish musical genres cleverly represented as a homonymous colour. It’s on.
I mean, really, if Nashville was called "Nashville Country" and wore maps as jerseys, we’d all roll our eyes. But being the Blues in the colour blue is fine? Why aren’t they dark grey with worrisome stains, like the carpet in so many blues clubs? Maybe they should be dressed in the colour ‘brass.’
I’ll let it go, but only because of that magical 1995/95 All-Star team edition. 46 different players played for them that year, including Gretzky, Hawerchuk, Hull, MacInnis, Pronger, Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish AND Dallas Eakins, Charlie Huddy, and of course, who could forget Grant Fuhr. They even had Roger Neilson on the bench as an Associate Coach (to Head Coach and General Manager Mike Keenan, hilariously).
And then they put this on:
- Ladd – Little – Setoguchi
- Kane – Jokinen – Wheeler
- Frolik – Scheifele – Halischuk
- Tangradi – Wright – Thorburn
Looks a little weird, doesn’t it? These are the most common line groupings from Sunday’s game against the Avalanche. Whatever Noel had on paper, this is what he put on the ice.
If we look back at the scoring chances and zone entries (Saturday, Sunday), both Scheifele and Frolik improved from Saturday (old lines) to Sunday (these lines). Meanwhile, Jokinen went from "not good" to "face-palm" (We only use technical terms on this site).
Kane’s illness is obviously part of that, as he wasn’t himself on the weekend and gave up a lot against. Really, a whole lot.
Little and Ladd continue to carry the team, and Setoguchi looks more comfortable with them than he has anywhere else in the lineup. I think we have a new top line. We just need 3 more players for the next two lines and we’re set!
Frolik has been such a strange player this year for the Jets. Moved to both wings, given different linemates. One game he’s getting 15 minutes plus penalty kill time, the next he plays 10, including power play minutes. I understand a coach wanting to see what he has, but Frolik has not had the impact we all hoped and expected, and it might be due to this constantly changing role.
Speaking of disappointing, mainstream media are wondering if Scheifele should be in the AHL. It’s crossed all of our minds, and many of us have spoken about it on twitter. Still, his season is not a train wreck. The scoring has dried up and he looks lost too often. He keeps falling to the point of making #ScheifeleDown equally depressing and over-used. But in close situations (the score within 1), his shot attempt differential is 9th on the team, with both Frolik and Jokinen behind him. In all 5 on 5 play, he’s down at 47%, fourth worst but still ahead of Peluso, Stuart, and Trouba.
The truth is, he’s young and he’s on a bad team. Kane doesn’t play well with others, and they don’t have another option for him. He had a good game with Wheeler and Kane once, followed by a bad one, a benching, and a line change. The team needs a chance to gain some chemistry before we can say the young man isn’t up to the task.
Noel needs wins to save his job, Cheveldayoff needs success for his rookies to show hope. There’s a disconnect on this team somewhere, either between management and the coach, or the coach and the team, or arguably both.
- Enstrom – Bogosian
- Clitsome – Byfuglien
- Stuart – Pardy
Montoya put in a great effort Sunday and kept his team in a game they seemed to want to tie. But now he’s back to journaling.
In aggregate, Mark Stuart is the team’s worst defenceman by any possession or scoring metric we can find. He’s worse on the PK than his peers, too. But he had his best weekend of hockey all year. Maybe in a long time, actually. He and Pardy entered the zone well on Sunday, and moved the puck in the right direction – out of their end. That’s pretty much all you can ask of your 3rd pair.
Meanwhile, Enstrom and Bogosian had a meltdown against the Avalanche. And Clitsome-Byfuglien is always a meltdown, but sometimes the fallout spreads to the other end of the ice as well.
They could really use some help in the form of, say, Henrik Tallinder?
With Postma out long term, and Zach Redmond still injured, the Jets have called up this season’s best defender on the IceCaps, Ben Chiarot. You didn’t read that wrong.
Ben Chiarot, who has 2 goals, 3 assists in AHL this season, is on the ice here this morning, wearing No. 63. #NHLJets
— Ted Wyman (@Ted_Wyman) October 29, 2013
Chiarot is also a team leading +6 through 9 games. He looked like chaos on skates during pre-season to me, but apparently he’s found the range at the AHL level.
- Steen – Backes – Oshie
- Sobotka – Roy – C. Stewart
- Schwartz – Berglund – Tarasenko
- Morrow – Cracknell – Reaves
Always lots of talk about Winnipeg’s own Alex Steen. He’s currently tied for league lead in goals with 10. But let’s remember he’s done it in three fewer games than Ovie. And yes, he’s scoring more than a goal per game right now. The Jets contributed to that when Trouba gave the puck up and then stood still so Steen could disguise his fake and beat Pavelec clean. Winnipeg takes care of its own.
With Paajarvi injured in a hit from behind in their last game, the lines are a little different than when the teams last met. The Young Scorers line of Schwartz/Berglund/Tarasenko is now clearly the soft minutes line, and we can expect Hitchcock to get them out against Stuart and Pardy often.
News media tell us that Chris Stewart has settling on ‘down year’ this time around, but is actually third on the team in RelCorsi at +10. Roy and Sobotka both had points in the Blues’ last game (a 6-1 drubbing of Nashville… on the second night of a back-to-back). It might be a jump start to offence for them. I suspect Sobotka and Oshie take turns in the assignment against Kane. If he’s still ailing, it could be a shooting gallery against that second line (again).
The Blues’ fourth line is not quite as strong as it was on paper to start the year. Morrow has started the journeyman part of his career as he has clearly lost a step. Reaves and Cracknell are better skating versions of Peluso.
- Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
- Jackman – Shattenkirk
- Leopold – Polak
It’s like the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo all over again on this back end.
When we last met the Blues, Jackman was struggling very badly with a 37% corsi rate and having gone -3 in the team’s previous two games. He took umbridge to my claim he might be entering the part of his career where he says "I’m too old for dis $%#&" like 12 times a game. He’s now at a 51% corsi rate. Jackman’s minutes are still down from last year, but it seems for now that Roman Polak is the goat. His numbers are still terrible.
Elliot got the assignment against the Jets on October 18th. But a shootout loss might as well be a family murder to Ken Hitchcock, so Halak gets the start tonight.
Worth Reading Today
- I wrote a Systems Analysis post about the Avs and Blackhawks over at Bleacher Report. I’d love if you read it.
- Ross got a peak inside Al Montoya’s journal. It’s pretty hilarious.
- Your bi-weekly Jets prospect update came out yesterday.
- Arctic Ice Game day!