The Jets face the rival Wild for the second time this week, third time in the regular season, and fourth time since training camp. We know the script by now. A pair of 2-1 losses has sunk the team’s all-time record against the Wild a game below .500, coincidentally where the team sits in the standings of the 2013/14 season.
It’s good news, bad news with these Jets. Up and down, one step forward and two back. Whatever you want to call it, even Claude Noel ruminated in front of the press yesterday that it has been like this for 2-1/2 years. It seems unlikely to reverse course against the stifling Wild.
Played on a Saturday afternoon, this game has that last day before holidays feel. Next week the team goes on the road to New Jersey, Long Island, and Philadelphia. December includes games against Edmonton, Florida, and Buffalo (twice!). One more boring, frustrating, futile contest and the Jets are free of perhaps the toughest 3 weeks in their season schedule.
I might sound a bit bleak today. It could be the prospect of watching the Minnesota Wild play whatever they call hockey. But it could be that the Jets have won as many games in the shootout as they have in regulation or overtime.
The Jets have played in more shootouts than any team in the league, and while ranking 20th in total points, rank 27th in regular and overtime wins. That’s right, the team is ahead of just Buffalo, Florida, and the Islanders for winning games during the hockey portion of the contest. Edmonton and Calgary both rank ahead of the Jets.
Seasons go up and down, and by January, five weeks removed from this schedule gauntlet, things may look different. For now, the Jets are in serious trouble in the standings and thanks to injury on the backend, ineffectiveness among the forwards, and lack of preparedness in the coaching staff, there isn’t much reason to think this game is winnable.
So I recommend beer for this game. I’m partial to a Creemore Springs in the afternoon – something with some sweetness and body but low acidity and hops. If you’re stuck for choices, hit me up in the comments. We’re all in this together.
- Ladd – Little – Wheeler
- Kane – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Frolik – Scheifele – Halischuk
- Tangradi – Wright – Thorburn
One of the most confusing parts of the Jets season to date has been listening to the comments made by the Jets players between periods. Shoulder pads off, standing on the bench with Sara Orlesky, they will all say the same thing – Minnesota, the Central Division, the Western Conference plays with a lot of structure. Claude Noel said yesterday that the Wild force you to play the right way. It’s confusing, though, because the Jets tend to respond with rigid and formulaic hockey, not structure.
The Jets’ top line is playing as well as they ever have. Little is leading the team in points with 23 and he and Ladd are the best forwards in all three disciplines. But once again, the team is struggling beyond that group, and Claude Noel is making odd lineup choices again.
Devin Setoguchi has been a dynamic and dangerous player since his healthy scratch October 18th against St Louis. He has 8 points in 16 games since then, and that’s being held back by low percentages and bad luck. When he’s on the ice, things have been going the right way. We know he’s a streaky player, and we might expect the coach to ride him when he’s hot. Instead, he was benched against Chicago last game. His linemates went on to poor games as a combined -6, while he watched them fall apart in the third period.
Evander Kane hasn’t had a goal since October 26th, and has just 4 assists in the ten games in between. He’s already at 93 shots for the season, but I think everyone including him was expecting more than 6 goals by the time he reached 100.
Mark Scheifele recorded fewer that 12 minutes two games in a row, and seems in need of a change. Eric O’Dell’s name is swirling, but as the team has poor depth players as it is, his demotion might be less productive than a move to the wing.
That would be because Matt Halischuk is what we thought he was – a player who has lived on percentages and counter-attack scoring to off-set very poor two-way play and non-existent defensive work. He’s a cast-off from a club one slot above the bottom of the Central Division.
The Jets current fourth line of Tangradi/Wright/Thorburn has a combined three points. Another way to say that would be, Eric Tangradi got three points while on another line, and teams don’t typically score from their own end.
- Clitsome – Byfuglien
- Enstrom – Ellerby
- Pardy – Stuart
Mark Stuart draws back in and Zach Redmond was went away after a poor game against Chicago. Stuart’s hip is healed and ready to go, but the team is icing five left handed defencemen, and the fewest puck-movers in recent memory. This is going to be wonky.
Jacob Trouba is nearing his return, which should give some better balance to the top-6.
Have I mentioned I think Clitsome and Byfuglien together is too high event? How about that Enstrom and Byfuglien looked great together last game? If the Jets can keep repeating their mistakes, I can keep repeating my solutions.
Ondrej Pavelec is back down to a .911 save percentage. 9-1-1 could be his nickname, if it wasn’t for the fact that his career number is well below that mark.
- Parise – Koivu – Coyle
- Zucker – Granlund – Pominville
- Niederreiter – Brodziak – Cooke
- Heatley – Konopka – Fontaine
A very similar group to the one the Jets faced a week ago. Zucker has forced his way up the lineup, and the team continues to have a very odd choice for fourth line centre. But in general, this team has an excellent forward group with an impressive mixture of youth, talent, experience, and tactical discipline.
The top line can and is used as a power-vs-power line, taking on other team’s top groups. And yet Parise and Koivu lead the team with 20 points each. The scoring starts to dry up quickly after Pominville’s 17, but as the Wild have shown the Jets (too well and too often – like an annoying movie Sensei who won’t get off the protagonist’s back until he realizes that he, too, can learn), they don’t mind winning 1 goal games. Slap the water. Wax on. Et cetera.
- Suter – Brodin
- Spurgeon – Scandella
- Stoner – Dumba
At least we’ll always have the moral high ground, right Clayton Stoner?
There’s not much anyone can say about this group. Ryan Suter was second in Norris voting last year and leads the league in minutes (Byfuglien is third). Jonas Brodin is going through whatever the sophomore slump is, and his cursed season includes a painful broken facial bone.
The group relies on Scandella to do a lot of the heavy lifting and eat up the defensive zone starts. Still, they miss the injured Keith Ballard and rookie Matthew Dumba is a work in progress.
Harding is behind only Tuuka Rask in save percentage leaders, and sports a .939.
… I’m definitely going to need that beer.