JGD 4: Openings

SaberToothed_Tiger

The Jets’ home-opener is also their first game against a
Divisional opponent – the oft-forgotten Nashville Predators. The new look Preds
have made a splash with points in each of their first three games led by the
unexpected scoring of Eric Nystrom (4 points), Paul Gaustad (4 points) and
Filip Forsberg (4 points). But it’s the new faces that make the team exciting
to watch this season, from Peter Laviolette behind the bench to James Neal,
Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, and Anton Volchenkov on the ice.

A year ago, two October games against a Rinne-less and floundering
Predators squad resulted in just one point for the tarmac cowboys, part of a 9-15-5
season record against Central Division opponents. Dropping games to LA and San
Jose is no shame, but does increase the urgency of capturing two points and improving
their Divisional standing tonight.

Lines

All lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff.

Jets Forwards

  • Ladd – Little – Frolik
  • Byfuglien – Scheifele – Wheeler
  • Lowry – Perreault – Thorburn
  • Galiardi – Slater – Peluso

The Kane injury looms large. In our What Would You Do Wednesdayfeature,
Jets Nation readers suggested O’Dell, Kosmachuk, new acquisition Patrick
Holland, Halischuk, and even signing Dustin Penner to fill in the gaps at
forward.

I’m on the record as being not a fan of Matt Halischuk. I
think he’s a limited player with huge defensive zone spacing issues who doesn’t
bring the offence his speed implies. At the same time, Eric O’Dell was waived
after recently returning from injury and hasn’t been very effective at the NHL
level. He does need to play 50 NHL games this season or the Jets lose his
rights (he becomes a UFA), though, and most of his NHL time to date has come
out of position on a hapless line. I’ve loved Penner since his 63 point season
with the Oilers but he has his own limitations, of course, and Maurice preaches
fitness and skating above all else.

The simple truth? I don’t think someone could suggest an
idea I like less than putting Chris Thorburn on the third line.

I bet Olli Jokinen has a laugh to himself tonight about it.
It might sound a little like:

Jets Defence

  • Enstrom – Bogosian
  • Stuart – Trouba
  • Pardy – Postma
  • Pavelec
  • Hutchinson 

It’s not a deep team, folks, and that problem continues to confound
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. An injury to Enstrom, Trouba, or Bogosian (all of whom
have long injury histories) would take this lineup from ‘if you squint…’ to ‘ay
caramba!’

Pavelec is being praised by Elliotte Friedman of late, the
respected reporter saying the team worked on calming Pav’s movements and
improving his rebound control. We can all hope, but he said that over a highlight
package of Pavelec creating massive, bizarre rebounds from the game against
Arizona, so… fire the highlights guy?

Historically, November is always Pav’s best month (avg .925
sv% since 2009), and October is his second best month (avg .907 sv% since 2009 –
yep, that’s his second best month and above his career average). I haven’t seen
a noticeable difference in how he plays, but I do think if the team found a new
goalie to take over December 1, Pavelec’s season numbers would look pretty all
right.

Predators Forwards

  • Forsberg – Ribeiro – Neal
  • Stalberg – Roy – Smith
  • Wilson – Jarnkrok – Jokinen
  • Bourque – Gaustad – Nystrom

This is a group that is still waiting on their top centre
(Mike Fisher, achilles injury) to return and is missing veteran busy body Matt
Cullen. The Preds made two late-summer, discount signings (Ribeiro and Roy)
that improved their forward depth to a degree Jets fans have never enjoyed. If
you can believe it, they actually have a lower team salary against the cap than
the Jets as well, thanks in part to the contribution of offensive rookies Filip
Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok.

The Predators have 5 forwards skating in their top-12 who
make less than Chris Thorburn’s $1.2M.

This roster is a bit of a fluke for the Predators with a
James Neal for Patrik Hornqvist trade materializing from new management in
Pittsburgh alongside a coaching change that brought in two long-time scorers
down on their luck at the precise moment Forsberg and Jarnkrok were ready to
graduate into meaningful minutes for the club. Depth by circumstance.  

Still, wouldn’t it be nice? Then we wouldn’t have to wait so
long. Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true. (I’m not
sure how Beach Boys lyrics got into an article about Winnipeg and Nashville.)

Predators Defence

  • Josi – Weber
  • Volchenkov – Jones
  • Ekholm – Ellis
  • Rinne
  • Hutton

The Preds also have 4 defenders dressed tonight who make
less than Mark Stuart’s $2.625M. Only Josi and Weber make more. We often hear
the ‘internal budget’ cry from management, but Nashville is a reminder that
money has been poorly spent.

Still, the Preds are unlikely to win a cup with Volchenkov
and a 19 year old in the top-4, or with Victor Bartley in the 7-spot. It’s a
winnable game for the Jets and that chance comes in every shift Shea Weber is
off the ice.

Predictions

Game Day Prediction: In writing this, I feel like I must
have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. My apologies, Jets fans. Seeing
Thorburn on the third line brings me back to the 5-2 December 5th
loss against Florida, which was genuinely a low-point in my hockey watching
life (and I grew up an Oilers fan!) and turned me away from the game for a
sizeable chunk of time. Despite beating the Rangers just a few days before that
hallowed contest on the back of two goals by Thor, I can’t bring myself to
believe the Jets can win with him up the lineup. I’m giving this one to the
Predators – 4-1 – in a game that is out of reach by the end of the 2nd
period.

Obvious Prediction: I get grumpy on twitter about how not to
beat a neutral zone overload trap after the Jets turn the puck over just
outside their own blueline for the 6th time. (I’m obviously going to
get upset before the 6th time)

Not So Obvious Prediction: Dustin Byfuglien is the Jets’
best exit and entry player in this game, bulldozing through Nashville’s
pressure spots while the rest of the team keeps trying to pass through bodies
and sticks.