As the calendar flips into November, the Jets begin a busy week with a string of games against Eastern Conference opponents. After dropping a winnable Sunday matinee game against a Sabres team missing their two biggest stars in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, a home-and-home looms with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The second game against the Caps is the first half of a back-to-back, as the Jets will head from Washington on Thursday to Detroit on Friday before finishing the week on Sunday at Madison Square Garden versus the New York Rangers.
The Jets sit at 4-5-0 after October (5th in the Central) and they are staring down a grueling November that will give us a good idea of where this season is headed. 16 games including three back-to-backs and a home-and-home against Nashville will put this club to the test and it begins tomorrow night at the MTS Centre against the Capitals, who’ve won two in a row and sit at 5-2-1 and third place in the Metropolitan Division. With Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers both listed as day-to-day with injuries, and Bryan Little on IR, this team is even younger than it was on opening day and they’re going to have to find a way to play a little faster than they did Sunday afternoon against Buffalo or they risk having things get away on them fairly quickly here.
Paul Maurice went back to the first line of Wheeler-Scheifele-Ehlers in the second period against Buffalo in an attempt to generate some scoring, but, while it increased the energy and bagged one goal (by Nikolaj Ehlers on a nifty bank pass from Wheeler), it wasn’t quite enough. Moving forward, the Jets will need to light the lamp a little more often if they want to be successful as they’ve only scored two goals in two games, winning in Denver on Friday by a score of 1-0. That’ll be easier said than done against Washington and Braden Holtby who is sporting a 2.15 GAA and a .917 SV%. If, by chance, the Jets get to face his back-up, Philipp Grubauer, it’ll be no consolation, as he’s 2-0, with a 1.00 GAA and a whopping .953 SV%. One bright spot for the Jets, however, is that they may have a goaltender of their own heating up (hopefully). After giving up only one goal in a win against Dallas on Thursday, Connor Hellebuyck came on in relief of Michael Hutchinson midway through the second period against Buffalo and stopped all 13 of the shots he faced and looking solid while doing so.
The Red Wings have dropped two in a row (to Boston 1-0 and Florida 5-2) but are still 6-4-0 and in second place in the Atlantic Division. The week ends in New York on Sunday against a Rangers team that is 6-3-0 and fighting for top spot in the Metropolitan with the Penguins and Caps. With four games in 6 days against Eastern Conference powerhouses, one would think the Jets would be pretty happy to win two games and keep their record hovering around .500. As we’ve seen before, falling behind early can be a real problem and dropping three or four of these contests this week might put the Jets in a hole that could be tough to get out of.