Tonight will be another one of those nights where the ol’ rink will be half full of the other team’s fans as the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town to take on the Winnipeg Jets in what will be the first game of 2020 and this brand new decade for both clubs. It’s also the halfway point of the season as Toronto played game 41 of 82 before the calendar flipped over while the Jets are in their 41st game tonight.
Expect special team fireworks
These two teams have two of the worst penalty kill units in the league with the Jets PK coming in proudly at dead freakin last with a 71.43% success rate while the Leafs aren’t much better at 75.83% which puts them at 25th overall in the NHL. The Leafs have given up a power play goal in four of their last five games and six of their last eight played. That’s not good of course, but it pales in comparison to the level of sucktitude the Jets have displayed recently. Four straight games having given up a power play goal – and let’s not forget the Jets are still one of the least penalized teams in the NHL, so it’s not like they are giving up that many chances – and for the month of December they only shut down 23 of 36 power plays against which is an awful 63.89% kill rate.
Meanwhile both team’s power play units are fairly strong. The Leafs as you’d expect with all their offensive talent boast one of the league’s best (top five at the moment with 23.89%) and the Jets after getting off to a rocky start this season have steadily been climbing the ranks and are now at 15th overall with a 19.17% success rate. The Jets have managed a goal in four of their last five games played which makes the issues on the PK that much more frustrating.
Imagine how much better this club would be off if they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot with such a bad penalty kill.
Kyle Connor closed out 2019 with a bang… Well three bangs actually as his hat trick paced the Jets to a win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. KC now has six goals in his last four games played, is now on pace for a 40 goal season and has leapfrogged over Mark Scheifele for the team lead in goals.
What is funny is for as much grief as Patrik Laine gets (or at least used to get) for being a one dimensional player, Connor is kind of in that same catagory if not a bit worse. KC has no issues lighting the lamp, but as our friend Garret Hohl explained, Connor’s defensive and special team numbers aren’t the greatest.
Some people are confused to why someone scoring so many goals could not have such a great impact… I tried to explain it here: pic.twitter.com/gxk9UJLGPY
— Garret Hohl (@GarretHohl) January 2, 2020
The eye test when watching Connor would confirm this as well. Connor struggles with pucks along the boards and ends up almost invisible at his own end of the ice, but at least he has some of the best finishing talent on this team and as long as that keeps putting pucks in the net, the Jets will happily live with the the bad parts of KC’s play.
New year, new Leafs?
It’s almost impossible to be a hockey fan in Canada and not be at least somewhat aware of how the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing thanks to non-stop coverage on the two major sports networks. They seemed to have turned a corner since they fired Mike Babcock and hired Sheldon Keefe, going 13-4-1 under their new coach. If you’ve watched any Leaf games (again, they aren’t hard to find in Canada even without a subscription service) you may have noticed the team has played looser, more up-tempo hockey. Something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by our friends over at LeafsNation…
It’s clear that things are different around the team with Mike Babcock out and Keefe in. That obviously isn’t anything new. The team seems looser and the offence we expected to see from a highly-talented group is finally showing. John Tavares says the group has a lot of trust in him, so it isn’t surprising to see such a significant change in their play.
If you were to break the season up into five game segments, it’s kind of crazy to see the Leafs start of the season compared to what they are doing now. Fun little exercise to play: Try and figure out which “segment” it was where Babcock was fired.
Crazy what happens to a team that might not be all that great defensively, but has fantastic scoring talent. Kind of makes one wonder if there was another Canadian team, ya know say east of Saskatchewan that would benefit from that kind of shift in mindset…
Let’s see some fun hockey out there tonight shall we? It also wouldn’t hurt to see Patrik Laine remind the Leafs of how huge a mistake it was to not take him first overall… I’m thinking a hat trick would prove his point nicely.
Jets win 6-4.