JGD 16: Motor City


Time ruins all things.

The Winged Wheel will skate at the MTS Centre tonight. It’s an exciting group to watch as one of only a few clubs to hold out against the most recent ‘Turn to Grit’ we’ve seen since the success of Boston and LA. While much of the league is hunting for Milan Lucic, trying to win some psychological war, and filling their depth with the young and cheap, Detroit continues to develop players slowly and instill a puck centric mentality. 

It’s a small, old group with outstanding puck support and possession. Even on a night in which the Jets are likely to lose, try to enjoy watching a system that refuses to give up the puck, and the aging stars that make it possible. 


Jets Forwards

  • Ladd – Little – Setoguchi
  • Kane – Jokinen – Wheeler
  • Frolik – Scheifele – Halischuk
  • Tangradi – Wright – Peluso

Kane has missed practice since the Chicago game, and wasn’t in the morning skate either. Word is that he’s a game time decision again. 

It’s a painful place to be in for the team. They need him to win, but since his flu, he’s not been himself. He might need to sit so he can rest and recover, but the Jets don’t have the depth to cover for one of their top 4 forwards missing time. 

Perhaps it’s time to put together the Frolik/Scheifele/Wheeler line that should have been tried by now. Scheifele plays very well with both players, and it might be a functional second line. 

The fourth line could be anything, but I’ve written my preference in the absence of clear information about it. It would fit with what we’ve seen of Noel for him to put in Thorburn against a team that doesn’t fight, and then bench him after 3 shifts. 

Jets Defense

  • Clitsome – Byfuglien
  • Enstrom – Bogosian
  • Ellerby – Redmond
  • Montoya
  • Pavelec

The Jets recalled Zach Redmond (recently returned from injury), acquired Ellerby from Waivers, and send down Chiarot and Melchiori after the Blackhawks game. It was clear that Chiarot was out of his league, and he was supposedly the best the IceCaps had. 

Lawless and Wyman are reporting that Ellerby and Redmond are a pair for tonight, but it feels like a Grant Clitsome situation to start the year to me. Redmond has only played one game (in the AHL) since Jets training camp. 

That said, a Pardy/Ellerby pairing is exactly the sort of defensemen the Red Wings take apart with their speed and puck possession. Those two need battles to be effective, and to be the Red Wings requires moving the puck quickly when you get the chance. Perhaps Redmond is a necessity in this game.

Montoya gets the start. Pavelec was pulled against Chicago, and his season GAA has crept above three. 

Claude Noel is showing his desperation a little. I’m sure Pavelec was the intended netminder for this game in the pre-season gameplan, and I get the feeling that the door is open for Montoya to play until he fails. We can all hope for a Brian Elliot miracle season.

Red Wings Forwards

  • Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Bertuzzi
  • Cleary – Weiss – Alfredsson
  • Tatar – Andersson – Abdelkader
  • Miller – Helm – Tootoo

That first line is a doozy, and we should see Noel match Ladd and Little against them like old times. Of course, those old times include a 7-1 loss to the Red Wings in 2011 when these clubs last met. But you know, pick different old times.

We’re going to hear a lot about how strange it is that Alfredsson is in a Red Wings jersey tonight. It was strange to even type his name. But the Paul MacLean system is a transplant from Detroit, and Alfie’s scoring has re-appeared this season. He’s currently third on the team with 13 points in 15 games. You might have guessed he’s behind only Zetterberg and Datsyuk. All three have outscored the Jets’ top man, Bryan Little, and his 10 points.

Johan Franzen is out with a persistent illness. This is only Darren Helm’s second game back. He’s extremely quick, as well as having very good straight ahead speed, and will be a challenge for the Jets to contain.

Stephen Weiss has been a disappointment so far for the Red Wings, though. He’s exactly what they wanted for the 2C position, letting Filpula walk and bringing in someone more comfortable with a two-way, hard competition role. But so far, he hasn’t been able to take on that role. He’s been given a zone-start push and is a minus corsi player. He also has 2 points in 15 games. Florida players never seem to have an impact as imagined – Olli Jokinen might be the prototype for that.

Red Wings Defense

  • DeKeyser – Kronwall
  • Quincey – Almqvist
  • Kindl – Lashoff
  • Howard
  • Mrzak

Detroit has a couple injuries on the backend as well, namely Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith, as well as backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson.

Their depth isn’t as strong as we’ve come to expect from Detroit teams, and they tend not to match their defensive pairings too aggressively. Coach Mike Babock tends to use zone starts with this pairings, but not match them against opposition. That means everyone has to pull their weight.

Kyle Quincey is currently a team-worst -7, and a negative corsi player as well. Almqvist draws in for his first game. Of course, Danny DeKeyser is a high profile College Free Agent and rookie this season. 

If there was ever a narrative about how the Jets could beat the Red Wings, it would be written about the Jets bulky forwards over-powering this group and creating turnovers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Claude Noel is telling that narrative in the final moments before game time tonight.

Still, it should be remembered that the Detroit system is about puck support. Where the Jets have high expectations for their defensemen to make plays with the puck to start the transition offence and consequently a large gap between forwards and defense, the Red Wings move as a unit. If there is a turnover, the Jets won’t have a lot of time to make hay with it. 

In fact, the key to beating the Red Wings will be in the Jets transition game. If their offensive transition can convince a young Red Wings defense group to give up containment in the offensive zone, they might force gaps in the Red Wings’ five man unit. In defensive transition, the Red Wings are almost impossible to isolate because they are willing to re-group behind them as well move the puck laterally and forward. But the Jets always have people coming late through the neutral zone because of their deep forecheck, so they could isolate the puck carrier from all sides. If they can do that, they might actually force the Red Wings to give up possession – a rare feat and critical requirement for beating the Red and White.

  • Robert Cleave

    That second-last paragraph really speaks to something that has annoyed me about the Jets ever since their return.

    It’s sort of amusing to read certain alleged experts in the media crap on Winnipeg’s D, and Buff in particular, for some of the turnovers without ever asking why an easier pass is so rarely available. The degree of difficulty is entirely too high for the current roster to pull off, and that’s with several pretty good passers on D.

    Part of the issue is systemic, as you note, and as a long time Olli Jokinen watcher it’s clear that part of it is also players that never really know where to be on the ice. I hope people really watch Datsyuk tonight, not for the dangles, but for where he is in his own end without the puck. It’s a damn rare thing that he’d ever leave his defence without an easy option to exit the zone.

  • Kevin McCartney

    Yeah, I agree, Robert. It’s a simple reality that the Jets could trade Byfuglien for Marc Staal and absolutely collapse as a team. Buff (and Enstrom) are ideal defenders in this system, even if the system itself isn’t ideal and the player isn’t perfect.

    It’s also why Bogosian struggles against teams with a puck-pressure forecheck, and does better against teams that are passive and let him skate it out.

    Olli Jokinen… where does he think he’s going? I don’t understand. And Scheifele has been lost a lot this year too. Just skates away from the puck. Sigh.