With a 6-2 win over the Avalanche, the Jets have managed a positive goal differential for the first time since game 3 of the season. Huzzah!
It’s been a well earned return to the black, with two wins on this home stand coming on top of an 8-4-3 November record. The Jets’ defensive work has them 4th in the league for goals against, bolstered by rookie Michael Hutchinson’s stunning 1.62 GAA and .943 sv% through seven starts. The promise of this hockey club – to be a competitive, playoff level team in the West – is being realized under a more patient set of tactics.
Still, strength of schedule has played a large part, as the Jets have played just 15 of their 27 games against teams currently in a playoff position. In those games, the team has a 4-8-3 record, going 10-1-1 against lesser opponents. Collecting points when they are available is a must for any team trying to make the playoffs, but beating the top 15 clubs is the next test. Even without Corey Perry, the Ducks represent another opportunity for the Jets to show their mettle against the league’s best.
Little’s hat trick against the Avs put all of he, Ladd, and Wheeler at 19 points on the season. The next highest scoring player is Dustin Byfuglien with 12. It’s the secondary scoring that’s the problem this season, and it is a problem. The Jets are 29th in the league – ahead of just Buffalo – for goals per game.
Evander Kane has only played 19 games, but 10 points is not what’s expected. Adam Lowry is a team-worst -4 (tied with TJ Galiardi) and has just 3 points on the season. Though, in fairness, that’s 3 times as many as Slater or Thorburn – collectively making $2.8M.
Mathieu Perrealt was never brought in for offence, and it’s hard not to see the struggles of Mark Scheifele at the centre of this – he should be centring the second line and contributing significant offence with Kane. He lost that job legitimately, and we’re waiting on him to show he deserves it back.
In his return the blue line, Dustin Byfuglien led the team in ice time at 26:24 and scored a goal. It’s wonderful that the Jets have a top-2 defender just waiting around for when Grant Clitsome gets hurt.
Ben Chairot is making a case as an NHL ready defender, but tonight isn’t the Oilers or Avalanche. It’s going to be a much stiffer test.
- Bourque – Getzlaf – Palmieri
- Belesky – Kesler – Smith-Pelly
- Cogliano – Rakell – Silfverberg
- Maroon – Thompson – Jackman
Remember when Rene Bourque was waived and then eventually ended up on the top line of the team currently leading the league? He was a write off by the stats-gurus for reasons I don’t totally understand. His contract is unreasonable, and the trade of him for Cammalleri was laughable. But he’s a big body, talented forward who can be a handful for defenders. He does take a lot of offensive zone penalties, and he needs a lot of room to get moving downhill (as we see him doing in all of his highlights). But he’s far above a replacement level player.
The Boudreau Ducks are kind of a perfect fit for a streaky scoring, heavy forward. You might notice a few others on the roster. Boudreau’s teams have always fit this model of creating a tiring, chaotic game for the opponent and cashing in with puck moving defenders and a top line of stars. But he also values speed, and his team is rarely late for a puck. It’s a dangerous opponent for a Jets team with a thin blue line.
- Fowler – Manson
- Lindholm – Robak
- Stoner – Vatanen
Luckily, the Ducks are in a position to give as good as they get. Injuries to John Gibson and Jason Labarbara mean Anderson and Bobkov are the ‘tenders. Colby Robak is playing in his 43rd NHL game, and I believe his first for Anaheim. Josh Manson is playing in just his 17th NHL game. And it was just last seasons that similar numbers could be thrown around for Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen.
Oh, and Clayton Stoner murdered a bear named Cheeky in Northern BC after the local First Nations specifically asked him not to kill that specific bear, and then left the carcass to rot in a field. But hey, he used a deadly weapon someone else invented and he acquired through money to prove how rugged he is. No one can take that away from him. Entitlement, amIright?
Game-Day Prediction: The Jets are on a bit of a roll, but have put Pavelec in against a fast, physical club while their defence is thin. It’s a 4-3 squeaker for the Ducks.
Obvious Prediction: The Ducks miss Corey Perry, struggling to finish their chances on the powerplay and create consistent zone time for Getzlaf. Dustin Byfuglien leads Jets skaters in ice time again, and it’s a major reason the team is able to manage a breakout against an aggressive forecheck and Boudreau’s tight gapped defensive transition scheme.
Not-so-obvious Prediction: After spearing Michael Frolik and scoring on the turnover, Ryan Kesler takes a dive during the goal hug out of instinct and sprains his wrist. The league is rid of him for a few weeks over the holidays, and it just seems brighter somehow!