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Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

WTWF: Jets Need More Than “A Good Effort” Against St. Louis

The Winnipeg Jets put forth a pretty good effort in their first game back from the All-Star / Player break, but a pretty good effort wasn’t enough as they ended up losing to the Boston Bruins by a 2-1 score. 24 hours later the Jets will go from hosting the Atlantic Division leaders to the Central Division leaders as the St Louis Blues are in town and this turns into as close to a ‘must win’ for the Jets as one can get.

Here are three other things to watch for in tonight’s game…

Helle*back*

It was somewhat surprising a few days ago when Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice announced that it was going to be Laurent Brossoit starting the first game back after the break against the Bruins while Connor Hellebuyck was going to be given the assignment of taking on the Blues. It goes against the conventional wisdom of trying to at least get two points out of the first game of a back to back set by not playing your top goalie, but at least Brossoit did his part to try and get the Jets a win in game one with a 23 save performance.

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Maurice didn’t give an outright explanation as to why he set up his goaltending the way he did, but logic would suggest that he wants his number one goalie in net for a very important divisional game. That would be a great reason if the Blues were within range of the Jets in the standings, but with first place St Louis ahead by 16 points, it makes very little sense in the long run.

Whatever the case, at least Hellebuyck is back in goal tonight. He’s lost his last three starts – all of which were on the road – in which his save percentage has been .875 or less despite the fact he’s faced less than 30 shots in each game. That isn’t to say that it’s all on him as we know how bad the Jets defense has been in front of him, but if the Jets are going to have any hope for a playoff push they’ll need the stingy AF Helle that we saw back in November.

 

Special teams need to be special again

Last night you could argue that special teams is what sunk the Jets against the Bruins. Both goals that Winnipeg gave up came with the Bruins on a power-play as their man advantage unit went 2 for 4 against the Jets. It was the third straight game that the Jets have given up a power-play goal against and over those last three games the Jets penalty kill has only worked at a 60% rate which is shades of how bad it was back in December.

On the flip side of that is the Jets awful power-play which has gone ice cold. Going 0 for 6 last night set the Jets up for failure and was especially frustrating given that they blew two separate chances with 5 on 3 man advantages that they squandered. Over the course of this five game losing streak, the Jets have gone a woeful 1 for 19 with the man advantage.

It might be a wise move by Maurice to switch things up on the top power-play unit as it hasn’t been working out as of late. Neal Pionk as the team’s quarterback on the blueline hasn’t worked out and opposing teams are willing to let him shoot every single time as it’s not much of a threat. Pionk’s passing is also not as crisp as it could be which also takes away the threat of Patrik Laine along the wing.

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Perhaps the Jets could move Nikolaj Ehlers into the top unit or maybe have Josh Morrissey take a turn in Pionk’s spot. Whatever the case, it needs a shakeup to counter the Jets bad penalty kill which at this point in the season we’ve all just accepted as really bad and have moved on. Problem is Maurice isn’t likely to change anything up without a practice between games, so we’ll just have to hope the Jets get lucky with any power play opportunities they get tonight.

 

Need to pounce on the road weary Blues

Both teams played last night, so it’ll be somewhat understandable if their is a slow start to the game tonight, but it would really behoove the Jets to get the jump on a St. Louis Blues squad that is playing their fourth game in the stretch of seven days – all on the road through Western Canada – and has lost four of it’s last five games played.

The Jets will face Jordan Binnington tonight in goal and it’s likely the Blues will lean on him a little more than they usually would. Getting bodies in front and making it a hard night to see the puck should be the Jets top mission in the game. In theory a game like this would be ideal for the Jets to do just that, whether they follow through with that plan or not is another story.

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Bold prediction

I know there are some who have already given up on the season and wouldn’t mind seeing a sixth loss in a row, but at this point I don’t think that would change anything with this team even though it really should.

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That said, it would also be very Jets-like for them to win this winnable game and give us a faint glimmer of hope.

Jets come out with a 3-2 victory.