© Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The bye week was not kind to the Winnipeg Jets. Their slim playoff hopes took a serious beating while the boys were relaxing and taking some time off. The Flames won all four games they played, the Predators went 3-0, and the Kings went 1-1 (with a game against Minnesota tonight).
If the Jets want to remain anywhere near the playoff conversation, they’re probably going to have to sweep the six game homestand that starts Tuesday night, and that is going to be a very tall order.
With 62 points in the bank and 19 games to go, it is going to take an absolutely heroic home stretch of 14-5-0, or thereabouts, to get this team to 90 points and the projected playoff line. While it may not be very plausible, it’s definitely not impossible. 12 of the 19 games are at home, 7 are against Central division opponents, and 6 of the games are against teams the Jets are chasing (2 each against the Blues and Preds, once each against the Kings and Flames). There will also be tough games in there, though, against the Sharks, Penguins, Ducks (x2), and Blue Jackets. It is probably going to take the single greatest stretch of hockey this city has ever seen for these Jets to make the postseason.
Tuesday, February 28, vs Minnesota Wild, MTS Centre, 7pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
It starts Tuesday against a team the Jets have lost to all three times they met this year. The Central division leaders have been hot, too, losing only twice in regulation since February 1, though they’re just completing their bye week, as well. One bright spot might be that the Wild are hosting Los Angeles on Monday night, so the Jets (who could very well be rusty) will at least be facing a team in the second half of a back-to-back. The Wild are amazingly healthy for this point in the season, with no one on IR other than defenceman Victor Bartley, who tore a tricep in the preseason. The Wild are led in scoring by Mikael Granlund, who has 19 goals ans 36 assists, for 55 points in 59 games. The Wild are second in the league in goals against, thanks in large part to golatender Devan Dubnyk, who is 32-11-3 on the season with a 2.01GAA and a .933 save percentage.
This game represents the last before the trade deadline, which comes at 2pm CST on March 1. The Jets may move a piece or two (Stafford? Thorburn? Pavelec?), but no major changes are expected. The Wild, on the other hand, saw the deadline approaching and gave up a first round pick, a second round pick, and a conditional pick to get Martin Hanzal from Arizona on Sunday night.
Friday, March 3, vs St. Louis Blues, MTS Centre, 7pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
One game back from the break and then two days off for the Jets before the third-last back-to-back of the season. While the Jets haven’t beaten the Wild, they have beaten the Blues every time they’ve seen them this season, with the most-recent match going to OT. The Blues have dropped three in a row after last night’s 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks and may be the only team the Jets can actually catch in this wild card race. Vladimir Tarasenko still leads the Blues in scoring (28-28–56), followed by Kevin Shattenkirk, another major contender to get traded before Wednesday’s deadline.
Jake Allen looks better in net for the Blues these days than he did when the team left him at home for a trip to Winnipeg that saw Pheonix Copley get his first NHL start. Allen saved 31 of the 33 shots he faced in the Blues last game before their bye week and made 34 saves last night, giving up three goals in a 4-2 loss to Chicago.
The Blues host Edmonton on Tuesday, before coming to Winnipeg to begin a three-game road trip.
Saturday, March 4, vs Colorado, MTS Centre, 6pm (SN, TSN1290)
The Jets are 2-1-1 against the Avs in their four prior matchups and the last meeting of the season comes on Saturday night. It will be interesting to see what remains of Colorado’s roster looks like post-deadline. The rumours have been circling around Matt Duchene and Gabe Landeskog for some time now and with Colorado in full re-build mode this squad may have a lot less firepower than when we last saw them. Nathan MacKinnon (12-29–41) leads the team in scoring. Colorado is making due in net with Calvin Pickard after Semyon Varlamov went down for the year with injury. Pickard is 10-19-2, with a .909 and 2.88.
Further On Down the Road: The homestand continues with the Sharks Monday, Penguins Wednesday, and the Flames in town on Saturday night.