After splitting a four-game homestand, the Winnipeg Jets head out onto the road yet again as they get ready to face the powerful Chicago Blackhawks at the United Centre. Even though this hasn’t been the best of seasons for the Jets, they have won the previous three encounters with the Blackhawks in 2016-17. Do the Jets have Chicago’s number or will the Blackhawks finally solve the Winnipeg riddle? This is also the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break.
Mathieu Perreault was placed on IR with an upper body injury and his return is unknown. Andrew Copp has goals in back-to-back games since moving to a top six role. What surprises many about Copp is his shot. It’s a hard, heavy drive that is starting to find some accuracy. Copp won’t be a big time goal producer, but he can chip in offensively which will be ideal once he settles into a role in the bottom six.
Toby Enstrom took a nasty fall on Tuesday night and is doubtful for this game. The Swedish defender dove for a puck near the boards and fell awkwardly, hitting his back and head into the boards in the first period. He tried to play a couple of shifts but was sent to the room, where he remained for the rest of the game. The Jets recalled Brian Strait from the Manitoba Moose in case Enstrom can’t go. Strait spent last season with the New York Islanders where he had atrocious analytical numbers. I fear that Strait will be matched up against either Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. Chicago does have last change. Pray for us.
Ondrej Pavelec has started the last four games and has a “near perfect” save percentage of .894. Yeah, that’s not good. For all the talk of Pavelec being the saviour, he looks like the same old Pavelec of inconsistency. Don’t be surprised if Connor Hellebuyck gets the start. Hellebuyck has been between the pipes for all three Jets wins versus Chicago, including a shutout on November 15.
Toews and Kane garner most of the headlines but beware of Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Panarin is second in scoring for the Blackhawks with 44 points, (17 G, 27 A) while Anisimov is third in team scoring with 33 points (18 G, 15 A). Both players compliment Kane extremely well on the second line as they drive puck possession and generate scoring chances. Panarin in particular with his exceptional 57.0% CF is a terrific example of strong possession.
A rising star on the Blackhawks blueline is Michal Kempny. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook starting to age just a tad, Kempny is looking like the next one to play heavy minutes. His 55.2% CF is tops among Hawks defenders. He has missed 25 games due to injury but he’s healthy now and the Blackhawks blueline is better for it.
Both Hawk goalies have been excellent this season. Corey Crawford has a .918 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 32 appearances. Scott Darling has a sparkling .928 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 21 appearances. Coach Joel Quenneville has confidence in both goalies, a luxury every coach dreams about. The Jets wished they had that luxury.
Game Prediction: The Jets have had great success against Chicago this season. But I have a feeling that changes. Blackhawks win 5-2.
Obvious Prediction: The TSN broadcast will mention that Jonathan Toews is from Winnipeg at least five times during the game.
Not So Obvious Prediction: The Jets make a trade at the All-Star Break. Who gets dealt? Don’t know but we’re taking a chance that the Jets open a stagnant trade market.