It could be the start of something great. With six straight games at Bell MTS Place, all against teams currently outside of the playoffs, the time is now for Winnipeg to make their run up the standings. That run begins this afternoon as the Senators are in town for the only time this season.
The Jets are coming off a strong 4-2 effort on Thursday when they knocked off the defending champions in St. Louis. Ottawa, on the other hand, is coming off a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Avalanche on Thursday. This game is the first of two on the road for the Sens as they move on the face the Avalanche again next week.
Here’s what you need to watch for in this afternoon’s game.
1) Third Line Impact
It hasn’t been the usual suspects lighting the lamp in recent games for Winnipeg. Instead of the top six doing the score, most of the offense is coming from the newly minted third line of Harkins, Copp, and Roslovic. This line combined for two goals in the win against St. Louis as both Harkins and Copp finished the game with one goal and one assist. Roslovic added an assist on the game winner as well. Overall, Copp has three points in this last three games while Roslovic has four points in the last three games.
It’s an interesting dynamic as Roslovic is being demoted after playing most of the season in the top six. Copp isn’t usually known for his offense, but this line is working well together. Both Copp and Harkins are ferocious on the forecheck and are able to create turnovers all around the ice. Roslovic’s skill and speed makes him a nice compliment alongside. Watch for the third line to continue their strong play against the Senators today.
2) Underlying Numbers Improving
The Winnipeg Jets have been out-shot and out-chanced nearly every single game this season. If not for the brilliant play of Hellebuyck, Winnipeg wouldn’t even be near the playoff line. Even though there’s been a few really rough stretches, the Jets might be turning the corner at this point of the year.
This is the rolling average of the Jets’ xGoals For %. As you can see, Winnipeg hasn’t had a stretch of five games where they’ve out-chanced their opposition. Sitting below 50% is a bad thing, sitting below 30% in mid-January is downright horrific. However, things have improved since that time. Winnipeg is working their way back towards that 50% benchmark. With a few strong games at home, Winnipeg might eclipse that 50% range for the first time this season.
Basically, watch for the Jets to actually compete in this game. With the team often getting out-chanced, that might be changing as we head towards the playoffs.
3) Defensive Switches
After going down with an injury against St. Louis, Luca Sbisa is officially listed as day-to-day. The good part is that the injury wasn’t more serious, the bad part is that just as players are returning from injury, others keep going down. It’s been a lousy year for injuries in Winnipeg and the defense looks different nearly every single night. If Sbisa isn’t able to play tomorrow, look for Anthony Bitetto to return to the lineup.
The forward crew should remain the same with Perreault getting hurt last week as well. Bryan Little also remains sidelined as he still needs to have more tests done during his recovery.
The one piece of good news is that Tucker Poolman is nearing his return to the lineup although he likely won’t play today or tomorrow.
Poolman skated twice today (once before the #NHLJets took to the ice). If all goes well, the defenceman could return to the line-up in three or four days.
— Mitchell Clinton (@MitchellClinton) February 7, 2020
4) Laine Continues to Climb
With a goal against the Blues, Patrik Laine has now scored the 9th most goals in NHL history before turning 22.
That's 130 career regular-season goals for @PatrikLaine29.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 7, 2020
Laine’s started to pick up the goals in the recent weeks as he’s now scored five goals in his last seven games. He still trails both Scheifele and Connor for the team lead, but with Laine’s ability to score in bunches, he could catch them at any time. Watch for Laine to have another strong game against the Sens and potentially add to his goal totals before turning 22. Laine doesn’t turn 22 until April 19, which means he has the rest of the season to climb the list. While 110 goals might be a bit of a stretch, he will likely pass both Crosby and Bellows and could potentially come close to Carpenter or Lemieux. This will be something to watch for not only today, but for the rest of the season.
After beating the Blues on Thursday, the Jets get a much lesser opponent in the Senators. If the playoff push is for real, the Jets need to win at least four games out of the six game homestand. The third line will come to play and pick up a goal, and Laine will continue his goal-scoring ways as the Jets win 5-2.