Ah, day time hockey. The perfect excuse not to go to Ikea on a Saturday, and a fine reason to be drunk before dinner.
Winnipeg sits in a tie for second last in the West this morning, which is good enough to be tied for a playoff spot with Washington in the East. The more things change…
The Jets have returned from a nearly successful road trip – going 1-2-1 in four one-goal games. Frustration is building, and Coach Claude Noel is starting to manage his lineup like a desperate man. Even obvious blackmailer James Wright was benched at even strength against the Blues.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are 7-1-2 in their last ten, are among the league leaders in puck possession, and are just rounding into mid-season form. The roster is still filled with men too young to remember the arrangements (and equally impressive moustaches) of the rock band Queen. Their success is likely to continue for some time.
Still, this one game is a chance for the Jets to take a turn in their season, to build some confidence and create a rallying point. "By the transitive property!" some poindexter shouts in the locker room, and all can feel like Champions, even just for a day.
- Ladd – Little – Setoguchi
- Kane – Jokinen – Wheeler
- Frolik – Scheifele – Halischuk
- Tangradi – Wright – Thorburn
These are the same lines as against the Blues, but I won’t be surprised if Peluso draws in for Thorburn given that the coach didn’t play the fourth line, and Thorburn had fewer than three minutes in the game.
The new first line is working. As Ladd and Little find their games, Setoguchi is starting to create offence. The goals will follow.
As well, the new look third line had a whale of a game against the Blues. Check out their scoring chance numbers. Noel limited Scheifele to under 11 minutes in the game, but he was excellent in those few shifts. He hasn’t had a good 1st month in the NHL, but it’s hard to know why his minutes and role keep changing.
The biggest mystery of all for Scheifele is why Jokinen is still getting a chance on that second line. Kane was sick over the weekend, and so we might give him a pass on his poor play, but Jokinen was awful too. It was strongly reminiscent of last year.
Don’t get me wrong – Jokinen did well from the third line. They scored a little, and while every game wasn’t perfect, they generally came out on the right side of the shot differential.
In the four game road trip, Jokinen was on for 40 shot attempts for, and 68 against. The four games before that, he was on for 53 for, 27 against.
Putting aside that Frolik might be a king-maker on this team, I’m not sure why Jokinen and Kane are still together.
- Clitsome – Byfuglien
- Enstrom – Bogosian
- Chiarot – Pardy
Well, that didn’t take long. Former 4th round pick and ECHL alum Ben Chairot and Jets 9th defenceman Adam Pardy are both playing today, according to DailyFaceoff.com.
This was a year for both Postma and Redmond to try to take hold of an NHL roster position, but the hockey gods are cruel. Perhaps cruel to us, the fans, most of all. Ben Chiarot is going to play against Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane today. Not all the time, Claude Noel willing, but it will happen. Wait, does Chicago even have a fourth line for them to play against?
- Sharp – Toews – Hossa
- Saad – Pirri – Kane
- Bickell – Shaw – Morin
- Bollig – Kruger – Smith
Well, at least they don’t have Andrew Ladd or Michael Frolik any more.
This group is led by Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews. His hat trick on Tuesday put him at 13 points in 13 games. Winnipeg native Patrick Sharp had three seasons of 65+ points leading into the lockout season, further shortened by injury for Sharp. His season is about getting back on track, and 8 points in 13 games is just about right. Winnipeg native Duncan Keith also has 8 points, as does interloper Brandon Saad.
Patrick Kane’s season blew up with that Bauer stick handling ad he did, and he has scored 12 points already this season – good enough for 1st on the Jets. But mysteriously, he’s a -9 on a team where the second worst rating is -2. It’s not a meaningful stat, but outliers often tell us a story. Kane is an outlier, so we should watch his game closely tonight to see how he’s being used.
- Seabrook – Keith
- Oduya – Hjalmarsson
- Leddy – Brookbank
This team isn’t perfect, though. Their depth isn’t what it was even a year ago, when Emery was the backup and nothing was wrong with Micheal Rozsival.
Their still in a great position – five stellar two-way defenders and a very reasonable goaltender. But look for them to make upgrades closer to the deadline.
There is a lot of cross-over in these two teams thanks to a former Atlanta GM Rick Dudley and a handful of smaller moves. Three native Winnipeggers return home, Khabibulin and Oduya visit their former home, while all of Ladd, Frolik, and Byfuglien all meet with former co-workers.
Worth Reading Today
We’ve had a lot of great writing on the site lately.
- Ross’ remarkably good Hallowe’en poem called "The Ghost of Dale Hawerchuk"
- The Jets All-Moustache Team
- Kevin looks at what the Mark Scheifele problem really is
- Arctic Ice Game Day!