JGD 40: Jets Hope 2017 Starts Well In Tampa

2016 didn’t end the way the Winnipeg Jets wanted to. A humiliating 6-2 home loss to the New York Islanders on New Year’s Eve sent many fans home disgusted. There were some boo birds at game’s end and we hope Jets management heard them loud and clear. 

The Jets begin 2017 on a three game road trip with the first game in the Sunshine State against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lineups:

Winnipeg (17-19-3)

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The big news from the Jets camp is the departure of Alexander Burmistrov who was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes from waivers. Burmistrov’s leaving doesn’t change too much from the current roster as he was a healthy scratch for the last 10 games but if a forward goes down to an injury, it leaves the Jets with one less option. In other words, everyone needs to stay healthy.

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A developing story is that Tyler Myers is on this road trip suggesting he might return to the lineup this week. The towering defenceman hasn’t played since November 11 due to a lower body injury. If Myers returns, it likely means Paul Postma will be demoted to the press box and it could mean changes to the defensive pairings. Myers was teamed with Toby Enstrom for the early part of the season. Does he reunite with Enstrom or does Jacob Trouba stay with the Swede? Stay tuned.

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Goaltending has been a huge talking point. While it is true that both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson weren’t very good in each of their last starts, calling up Ondrej Pavelec from the Manitoba Moose to help out between the pipes is a terrible idea! Yes, Pavelec has looked better recently and he does post a .910 save percentage. But that’s in the AHL where there is a significant drop in quality. Pavelec had four years to prove himself and he put up below average numbers. (Career save percentage is .907.) 

Connor Hellebuyck is in his first season so there will be bumps in the road. Saturday’s game against the Islanders was a massive sinkhole. But patience is needed with a young goalie. Even Carey Price struggled early in his career and he turned out pretty good. Hellebuyck needs time. 

Tampa Bay (19-15-4)

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The Lightning have been decimated with injuries this season. Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle are on injured-reserve and the Bolts have missed those players dearly, especially Stamkos. That doesn’t mean there’s no skill in the Lightning lineup. The top line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov are a highly talented trio that don’t get much attention even though they’ve had two excellent postseasons for Tampa. Keep your eye on them.

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Victor Hedman is a rock on the Tampa blueline and one the game’s top defenceman. He leads the Lightning in ice time, sees heavy minutes yet still has a 51.4% Corsi. Hedman has the ability to control the pace of the game and is a calming influence on the ice. Very underrated yet very good player.

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Injuries have hurt the Lightning in the crease. Ben Bishop went down on December 20 and was placed on IR with a lower body injury. Andrei Vasilevskiy has taken over the number one job and has done a good job. A .918 save percentage and 2 shutouts will make it difficult for Bishop to reclaim his spot between the pipes.

Predictions:

Game Prediction: Last time I picked the Jets to lose, they won. Let’s continue with the reverse psychology. Tampa wins 5-3.

Obvious Prediction: It’ll be warmer in Tampa than Winnipeg. 

Not So Obvious Prediction: I say Joel Armia scores. I like him and want him to succeed.