You might have heard that the Jets ended their road trip with a 4-2 record. It’s the phrase being used to compartmentalize the shame of losses to Florida and Philadelphia, and swaths of poor play from all over the roster.
We went into the road trip as fans expecting to be vaulted back into contention for a playoff spot (which really required 10 or 12 points). We come out of the road trip with deepening concerns that the organization is not aware of the problems, or not capable of the solutions, and this season is following a familiar script that ends in disappointment.
Tonight’s matchup against St Louis comes with all the emotion of Dorothy tapping her ruby shoes together and wishing for home. Nothing has fundamentally changed about the place they so badly wanted to escape two weeks ago, but just being away is enough to foster some hope to the contrary.
- Ladd – Little – Wheeler
- Thorburn – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Halischuk – Scheifele – Frolik
- Wright – Albert – Peluso
As is tradition for Claude Noel, the lines will stay the same after a win. It’s part of a long list of indicators that he puts more weight on results than on process, which (perhaps unexpectedly) leads to worse results.
John Albert was on TSN 1290 today, and they discussed the fact that he doesn’t have a winter coat. If I’m to decode that, I think it means he plays fearlessly and will do well in his 5 minutes. The team has been doubled in shot attempts while he’s on the ice, but it’s not like Cormier or Thorburn did any better.
Good thing Eric Tangradi is in the press box. I hate playing safe hockey in the neutral zone, it’s so boring. More Wright and Peluso!
The team’s top line is starting to slow down again, making another valley in an already roller-coaster season. Blake Wheeler needs a new look, and if the team had any options, might find himself playing with that second line more often. But they don’t, and it can be clinically inadvisable to interrupt Claude Noel while he’s sleep-working his way through this season.
- Enstrom – Byfuglien
- Clitsome – Trouba
- Stuart – Ellerby
Have I ever mentioned that I don’t think Mark Stuart is very good? Oh, it’s all I talk about, you say.
- Steen – Backes – Oshie
- Schwartz – Sobotka – Stewart
- Roy – Berglund – Tarasenko
- Morrow – Lapierre – Cracknell
Now, here’s a team with so many good centres that Derek Roy has to play wing. Oshie made that transition years ago.
Alex Steen leads the team with 32 points, including 20 goals. He has 20 goals already. Bryan Little has 12 to lead the Jets, and not many people think he can continue his pace. In fact, that might be true for both players, given that Steen is 4 goals shy of his previous season-best, and is on pace to beat that previous high by a factor of 2.
Regardless of pacing, luck, and whatever else, the team has the rich-man’s version of the Jets’ top line and it is steam-rolling teams. I’m not even sure the pure talent is that much higher, but Steen/Backes/Oshie play on a well structured club with so much skill throughout the lineup that their jobs are considerably easier.
Jets media seem fond of noting how close the Jets have been in games against St Louis (we even won one! And all it took was awful goaltending!). The truth is that this team is extremely comfortable in close games and intend to win through patience.
Edmonton winger and former Blue David Perron noted that Hitchcock has strict rules about when to take chances, and it includes dumping in on a two-on-two. They give up so little, and it’s up to the Jets to force open rebound lanes and layer their attack whenever a shot gets through.
- Pietrangelo – Bouwmeester
- Jackman – Shattenkirk
- Cole – Polak
Jordan Leopold is the team’s only major injury, and while they will miss his puck moving skills, the 60 combined points between Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, and Shattenkirk remind us that they will probably do just fine and moving the puck vertically this game.
Halak only has a .910 save % (compared to Pavelec’s .914) but a GAA of 2.24. A poor season for Halak is resulting in half a goal against less per game than Pavelec’s career season. So… the Jets aren’t great.
I think it’s an ugly loss for the Jets tonight. I’m thinking 4-1 with all the hope and energy pushed out of the MTS Centre like a 60 minute long punch to the gut. But in the immortal words of Vancouver Sportsnet colour man John Garret on the topic of Honey Nut Cheerios, "Just add a little sugar. Yeah. Always good."