It’s the fourth of five meetings between new Divisional opponents. The Jets have given up 11 goals in those three games to the Stars, and the bad guys earned 5 of the 6 points that now separate the two teams in the standings.
That was the old-look, Jets, though, where coaching consisted of sarcastic remarks and disapproving glares. Now 2-4-4 in their last ten, the team is packing to return to reality after the honeymoon with Paul Maurice. There are holes on this club (shaped kinda like a shooter-tutor, strangely…) and a coach can only do so much.
The Stars have had a wonky season in their own right, with Goligoski and Gonchar earning headlines early in the season for struggling on a team with a new GM, new coach, and new star player. Now Goligoski is third in team scoring with 31 points – or just under half of what Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have managed each. Third highest scoring forward Rich Peverly will miss the rest of the season, and long-time Star Stephan Robidas was traded after a broken leg. Perhaps the strangest part of all is that Tim Thomas is their backup netminder now. He’ll get the start opposite Al Montoya in this one.
- Ladd – Little – Frolik
- Kane – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Byfuglien – Slater – Wheeler
- Thorburn – O’Dell – Peluso
We’ve talked about this before, Jets fans, but these lines just never make sense to my brain. Two players on their off-wings (Buf and Thorburn) while Tangradi sits out. O’Dell with two guys who can’t make or take a pass while Jim Slater slides around the ice waiting for a puck to hit him with Blake Wheeler wasting away on the wing.
Olli Jokinen is a -12 this year, and despite being immeasurably better than last season, hasn’t redeemed his $9M contract. He’s not an answer for this team, and when we talk about holes, centre ice is a major one. God speed, Mark Scheifele.
- Enstrom – Bogosian
- Stuart – Trouba
- Pardy – Ellerby
When Ron Hainsey was the whipping boy and clearly set to exit the organization, my concern was there was no one available to take on his minutes. Mark Stuart was the other coach favourite at the time for defensive work and PK minutes. He’s been the heir apparent to the drowning role given to Hainsey and his results are worse in aggregate. Trouba has been the saving grace of the defence group, but he’s the second worst corsi player (meaning more time is spent playing defence than offence) and he’s still very obviously a young defender when we watch him.
As a fan and a puzzle-enthusiast, I want so badly to see Byfuglien on defence with the team’s better organized breakout and transition. It sure doesn’t seem to be shaping up that way, even as the team sinks in the standings while averaging three goals against per game over their last ten.
Michael Hutchinson is up in place of the injured Pavelec. He’s an AHL journeyman brought in from the Boston organization. He’s outplayed Pasquale on the farm, posting a .923 sv% in 22 games to date, as well as going 15-5-1.
- Benn – Seguin – Nichushkin
- Cole – Morin – Sceviour
- Whitney – Mueller – Chiasson
- Roussel – Fiddler – Garbutt
The injuries have piled up for the Stars. Horcoff, Peverly, and Eakin are all missing from this forward group. It makes for a lot of AHL talent in the top-9. That Ray Whitney has struggled and Alex Chiasson has run hot and cold doesn’t help a club that is mostly high from the jet fuel exhaust coming off their top duo.
That said, Nichuskin’s 29 point, +18 season in a mostly limited role away from the big guns hasn’t been well reported around the league. He’s in the range with Mark Scheifele (34 points), Nick Bjugstad (31 points) and Sean Monahan (30 points). It’s no where near the Calder (MacKinnon has a whopping 51 points at the moment), but he’s a rookie who belongs at just 18 and he has a bright future in the league.
- Goligoski – Daley
- Dillon – Benn
- Gonchar – Connauton
Brenden Dillon has emerged as perhaps the team’s best two-way defender. He’s a bit of a Jay Bouwmeester mould, with a huge wing span, great mobility, and enough puck skills to make an impact. He’s also a little harder on the body.
Still, Trevor Daley was a 5th defender for this squad just a few seasons ago, and the lack of depth is clear. Gonchar’s all-world talent didn’t arrive on the same plane he did and the team is still waiting for United Air to track it down. It’s a puck moving group – like the ones Lindy Ruff did well with in Buffalo – only lacking the veteran savvy and depth of a playoff-capable group.
As always, the Jets match up well if they can get pucks on the boards and use their speed and size to create turnovers and disrupt the timing of the opposition. This group more than most will be caught chasing if the Jets can get their bodies involved below the hashmarks.