There is a woman who works at the Subway franchise closest to my work. Occasionally I eat at the Subway franchise, and occasionally she is behind the counter. She’s very absent – I can’t blame her – and her work habits include not closing the sandwich before trying to roll it up in paper. It’s a cumbersome event to watch, since instead of a log of meat and vegetables, she is attempting to wrap a rectangle of slop. When you unwrap it, it’s just a disaster. I have to admit that I find this hilarious. I can’t decide if she’s just sabotaging corporate sandwiches (which I can get behind) or just really doesn’t know to close a sandwich before wrapping it and assumes every other employee faces the same struggles in wrapping.
This sums up my exact feelings about the Winnipeg Jets, and in particular, their second line. When the team brought their second line home and unwrapped it, it was a 14 minute mess. But we have no idea if the team really thinks that this is what a second line looks like, or if there is another reason (from coach-manager disconnect to Evander Kane politics to superstition). But they deal with hockey every day – how can they not realize?
I encourage you to see it as hilarious, because if you can’t laugh you’ll cry, and it’s not changing any time soon.
- Ladd – Little – Wheeler
- Thorburn – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Halischuk – Scheifele – Frolik
- Wright – Albert – Peluso
I can’t find anything to suggest the Jets aren’t going with the same lines in this game. As we discussed in the St Louis post-game, a 2-1 loss is a close game in Noel’s mind, even if the team only managed 25 even strength attempts at the net (corsi attempts), their third lowest total of the season and about half their season average.
Thorburn/Jokinen/Setoguchi was the team’s worst offenders for corsi numbers, and were badly out played against St Louis. If it was a normal line, no one would call for a change after a single bad game. But that bad game met with expectations, given that Thorburn’s lines regularly play without the puck. Moreover, there was a clear and obvious change in circumstances (returning to the Western conference).
"Hey, you ate the sandwich, so it couldn’t have been that bad!" goes #Noelogic.
The real problem with this club is that it can’t afford for one line to have a particularly bad game. In fact, to win consistently, it will need lines to bat well above their established averages in groups of 2 and 3.
I didn’t get to write about it at the time, but it’s hard to imagine PM Bouchard wouldn’t have helped this group as a multi-positioned skilled forward with strong powerplay skills. The players allowed to slip away in recent months is already a better middle-6 than the Jets currently ice: Grabovski, Jussi Jokinen, Mike Santorelli, Bouchard, Burmistrov, Wellwood.
- Enstrom – Byfuglien
- Clitsome – Trouba
- Stuart – Ellerby
Trouba had his best game of the season against St Louis and led the team by eye and corsi numbers. It was his second game in a row of exceptional confidence. It’s hard to know what happened between Florida and Tampa to convince this kid to let loose his full arsenal, but we’re seeing a physical, aggressive, opportunistic defender who wants the puck.
Sadly, Mark Stuart and Keaton Ellerby is still a frightful pairing, and with Adam Pardy in the pressbox again, we’re seeing the blindspot that is Noel’s concept of leadership. Stuart blocks shots and hits people. He also has the worst puck skills on the team, and Roman Polak makes him look awkward. Stuart has risen (!) to 16th worst defenceman in the league at 5 on 5 corsi numbers when the score is close. It’s just ugly, but is very similar to the process we saw with James Wright last year.
- Landeskog – MacKinnon – O’Reilly
- Talbot – Duchene – Parenteau
- McGinn – Stastny – Mitchell
- Bordeleau – Cliche – McLeod
An injury to Alex Tanguay has thrown the Avs’ lines into disarray. Every game comes with a new grouping, it seems. A 12-1-0 record with Tanguay has given way to an 8-8-0 record without him.
I had the opportunity to watch this group live against Vancouver on Sunday night. The pure skill of Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene was incredible. I strongly encourage you to simple enjoy their puck skills in this game, and the speed at which they perform complex tasks. MacKinnon has 17 points in 29 games, tied for third in rookie scoring. Meanwhile, Duchene leads the team in goals with 12 and is second to Landeskog in points with 22.
It’s group with exceptional pure skill, and a handful of excellent two-way forwards. The team has historically been held back by Stastny’s large contract and the strength of the defence group.
- Guenin – Johnson
- Benoit – Sarich
- Holden – Barrie
Similarly, this group has been somewhat de-stabilized by injuries to Ryan Wilson and most importantly, Jan Hejda. Andre Benoit toiled in the Ottawa system for years and performed well in the NHL last year. For the Avs, he’s a heavy-minutes player in all three disciplines. He’s third in average ice time behind Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda (when healthy) and is the only defender to play both powerplay and shorthanded minutes. In many ways, he’s the key to the lineup.
I wrote over at Bleacher Report about this group earlier in the year, noting that the move away from the Shane O’Brien types to the multi-tool defenders was part of the organization following the patterns laid out by Chicago. It’s not complete, though, and Nate Guenin, Nick Holden, and even last year’s stand-out Tyson Barrie are problematic in this group.
The Jets have an opportunity to control play with their big-bodied forward group against a fairly young and inexperienced Avs defense.
All Too Specific Predictions
The Avs have had a harder time scoring since Tanguay left and took his 9 points in 13 games with him. Patrick Roy is calling for more chances to the net and rebounds, as reflects his less talented group.
With that in mind, we can view his forward lines a little differently. Enstrom/Byfuglien pull the tough assignment against Duchene/Parenteau, holding them to a single goal. The problem comes when John Mitchell gets in to the back-side lane against Stuart and Ellerby and crashes for the 2-1 goal in the second. From there, the Avs (currently struggling) powerplay takes over with goals by Johnson and MacKinnon to make it a 4-1 final. Wheeler gets the first goal of the game, just to get our hopes up. That jerk.