With All-Star weekend less than a week away, the Jets are on the final road trip before the break. It’s the first of three games in four nights as the Jets take on the Blackhawks. These two clubs are coming into this game in very different ways. Chicago is coming off a big win over the Maple Leafs where they won 6-2 last night. Winnipeg on the other hand, is coming off one of their worst performances of the season as they got dismantled by the Lightning on Friday.
It’s going to be an interesting matchup that has tons of standings implications as well. Here’s what to watch for in this one.
1) Line Shuffling
The Jets have had very consistent lines all year long which is a rare sight under Paul Maurice. But given the terrible game against Tampa Bay, something needed to be changed. That change came during yesterday’s practice as Wheeler and Scheifele flipped spots in the top six.
Today’s #NHLJets update from those who were there, flip-flop of C’s
D Nelson Nogier recalled as additional insurance
As mentioned earlier, @WPGMurat will handle things on the road trip
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) January 18, 2020
This is an intriguing look that we will get to see tonight. With Laine and Connor both being natural finishers, Wheeler’s playmaking should be a nice compliment to their game.
On the other hand, Copp’s ability to work the puck along the walls will be great alongside Scheifele’s play down low. Copp and Scheifele should be able to get a nice cycle game going and keep possession of the puck for long stretches at a time. Add in Ehlers’ speed and finishing ability and you have another dangerous line.
Obviously it’s easier said than done, but it’s an interesting look for the top six that will hopefully find some instant chemistry tonight.
2) Bounce-back Hellebuyck
It’s not that Hellebuyck was bad against Tampa Bay, he just didn’t get any help from his teammates. With 2-0’s, odd-man rushes and partial breakaways, Hellebuyck didn’t stand a chance in the net.
Luckily for the Jets, Hellebuyck’s has been known to bounce-back in a big way. He’s always responded well to having a bad game, so watch for Hellebuyck to come out strong in this one.
To be totally honest, the Jets need Hellebuyck to come out strong in every game. With the team routinely getting out-shot and out-chanced, Hellebuyck’s been the only reason that Winnipeg is near a playoff spot.
Let’s make a long story short. The Jets are basically the worst team in the NHL without goalies. When Helly doesn’t stand on his head they’re doomed and it’s starting to happen. Something has to be done or this season is a lost cause.
— John Malloy (@JMall95) January 18, 2020
3) Central Division Standings
Even though we’re a long way from the playoffs, every game feels so important in the standings. With so many teams within a few points of each other, especially in the wildcard race, every game matters. This game in particular matters a bit more as Chicago is breathing down Winnipeg’s neck in the standings. Winnipeg is currently sitting three points out of a wildcard spot, but the Blackhawks are only two points behind. A win for Chicago today would mean the Jets and Blackhawks are tied as the playoff races start to heat up.
On the other hand, if Winnipeg can get a victory today, they gain some separation from Chicago, but more importantly, also pull within one point of a wildcard spot.
With the race currently so tight, it’s going to be a fun few months of hockey with all these teams gunning for the playoffs.
3) Mom’s Trip
This road trip for Winnipeg sees the first ever Mom trip from the team. Every player is able to bring their mother or a female guest along for the ride as the Jets play Chicago, Carolina, and Columbus in the next few days.
Our 2020 Guest Trip is officially underway… ✈️
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 18, 2020
It’s a great event to help promote relationships among players and their families. Even better, this will probably propel the Jets to play at their best each game. Nobody wants to lose in front of their mother in the stands. That little extra motivation will hopefully be enough to give Winnipeg a strong road trip before the All-Star Weekend.
4) Weird stat
Out of the current Jets roster, only one player has a point per game against the Blackhawks for their career. The obvious choice would be Scheifele, but that’s not right. He’s only got 19 points in 28 games. How about Wheeler? Also no, with 28 points in 34 games. Ehlers or Laine? Nope, they have 0.75 and 0.69 points per game respectively. Even Kyle Connor only has 7 points in 11 games against the Blackhawks.
Well, the one player with a point per game actually has one point in one game. It’s Jets defensmen Cam Schilling. With only 10 NHL games played in his career and only one point ever, he’s the player with the most points per game against the Blackhawks.
The funny part about the stat is that Schilling will actually be on the road trip for the team as he was recently called up from the Moose. There’s little chance he actually sees the ice, but it’s funny to see him called up when the Jets take on the only team he’s every recorded a point against.
The Jets put up a stinker against the Lightning on Friday. It seems like they will come back with a nice performance against Chicago. It might not be pretty, but the Jets will squeak out a victory in a big Central Division matchup. Jets win 3-2.