If one was to state that this past weekend’s pair of games between the Winnipeg Jets and first place in the Central Division St Louis Blues were an exam that the Jets ultimately failed, then tonight’s contest against the second place Colorado Avalanche could be considered a remedial exam of sorts. And unlike the Blues who are starting to gain a healthy lead on everyone in the division and the entire West, Colorado is still well within striking distance for the Jets as they are five points ahead in the standings, but have played two more games than Winnipeg.
I can’t think of a better way for the Winnipeg Jets to close out 2019 and the decade than with a redemption win of sorts in Denver. Here are a few other things we should be looking out for before the clock strikes midnight…
Striking at the right time?
Colorado has had some struggles of their own as of late with just a single win in their last five games played, a record of 1-3-1 in that time. Lately the Avs have had issues closing out games which up until very recently was one of their biggest strengths. In each of their last four losses the Avalanche have either held a lead going into the third period or at some point in the third period had a lead and each time ended up losing it.
The Jets meanwhile have shown a knack for strong third periods, outscoring the opposition 40-33 this season while out-shooting their opponents 409-385 in the final frame.
That said, we’d rather not see the Jets test this theory tonight. The Avalanche after all are 18-1-2 when leading after two periods, but only 6-8-1 when they are scored on first. The Jets are a healthy 7-1-0 when they get the jump on the road, so rather than wait for the end of the game, let’s hope for a quick start. Otherwise, we’ll have to hope for yet another Avalanche collapse.
The only thing the Jets PK is killing is our will to live
The Jets penalty kill for the month of December has only killed 21 of 32 power play opportunities against which gives them a 65.62% success rate. After briefly flirting with having a penalty kill ranked in the mid 20’s in the league, the Jets PK unit is now 31st overall at 72.34%
It’s not quite in the conversation of one of the top ten worst penalty kills of all-time – or at least since the NHL started keeping track of such matters back in the 63-64 season – but it’s getting there. They are for sure missing players like Andrew Copp and Bryan Little who both were pretty good on the PK, but even when those two were healthy, the Jets have struggled badly to kill penalties and there is plenty of blame to go around.
After giving up a pair of power play goals to one of the better man advantage units in the league with the Blues, the Jets now take on a Colorado squad that has a middle of the road power play at just 18.18% so there is a chance here for Winnipeg to stop the bleeding while down a man. They’ve given up a power play goal in seven of their last eight, so the madness has to stop at some point, right?
Meanwhile let’s just count our blessings that the Jets aren’t a more penalized team this season.
At least it’s not all bad on special teams
The Jets power play has quietly been getting better as we’ve gone along with this season and while there are still some kinks to work out – like Neal Pionk needing to get the puck to Patrik Laine with a little more urgency than “snail speed” with his passes – it’s gone 9 for 32 over the last 10 games. That 28.12% success rate would put it among the league’s best as they’ve managed to score in five of the last seven games played.
Colorado’s PK is middle of the road as well sitting at 79.84% which puts it at 20th overall. With the jets having had success against the Avalanche with the man advantage – Winnipeg is 10-for-32 (31.3%) on the power play over the last nine games against Colorado – there is a pretty good chance they’ll pad those power play numbers tonight.
My hope is that this past weekend was like running – or skate as it were – with a parachute for the Jets. You go as hard and as fast as you possibly can but it doesn’t do you any good because the parachute is just too much for you to overcome. The Blues are a great team right now and obviously too much for the Jets to deal with. Tonight the Jets don’t have to try and skate with a parachute and it will show on the scoreboard. (Did any of that make sense? I wrote this at 1 AM with a distinct lack of coffee in my system)
Jets win 5-2.