If one was to take this current six game homestand that the Winnipeg Jets are in as a six-step program towards clawing back into a playoff spot, then Saturday’s first step was a good one with a rather convincing win over the Ottawa Senators, led by a Patrik Laine hatty.
Step two is a bit trickier today as the Chicago Blackhawks come into town and it’s been tough to get a read on them. They are an aged club sprinkled with some dynamic young players and it’s been hard to know on a nightly basis what to expect from them. Being that this is a divisional game and a chance for the Hawks to get right back into the Wild Card race, the Jets should expect some fireworks early and often in a Sunday evening contest they’ll need to start on time.
Let’s talk about Laine!
Patrik “The Playmaker” Laine who at multiple times this season also appeared as Patrik “The Defensively Responsible Back-Checking Forward” Laine, has now morphed back into Patrik “I Score Lots Of Goals” Laine over the last couple of weeks, punctuated with his first hat trick since the five goal night he had against the St Louis Blues last season. He also managed that hat trick on Saturday by scoring three times on the power-play, which is a feat he had yet to accomplish in his career.
We’ll talk about the Jets power-play in a moment…
For Laine, he’s now potted a goal in six of the Jets last eight games played after having gone seven games without a goal and it sure seems like his transformation to a complete player who can be leaned on at both ends of the ice is nearly complete.
I do not understand how Laine is the first forward back and then marks his man and then a moment later Connor crosses the Jets blue line on his backcheck and then that much times goes by before Scheifele appears in frame.
Reputation doesn't always align with observed evidence.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) February 8, 2020
(Side note: Mark Scheifele’s reputation as someone who coasts on the defensive end of things has sure grown as this season has gone along and that’s a bunch of yikes.)
Patty still seems to need to find a correct balance between trying to force a pass when taking a shot would be a better option, but that’s something only a handful of pros really ever figure out so it’s hard to be overly critical of him on that front.
Maybe the best aspect of Laine’s hat trick also came from the fact that it was three different types of goals. His first goal was him going to the net, looking for a rebound and shoveling it past the Senators goaltender. His second goal of the game was a smart net front deflection, and the third goal was your more traditional Laine one-timer.
The POW is back in the power-play?
After having gone 1 for 25 over the last eight games, the Jets power play – with help as mentioned above from Patrik Laine – came to life on Saturday gong three for four. Of course it was against the 17th ranked penalty-kill of the Ottawa Senators who are not exactly a special teams juggernaut.
But even though the Jets haven’t changed personnel wise on the recently maligned top man advantage unit, steps it would seem have been taken to bring a little more balance to things as the second power-play unit – currently Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp, Jack Roslovic with Josh Morrissey and Sami Niku on the points – had a little more ice time against Ottawa than they did the previous game against Nashville. There also seems to be a lot more player movement with the top unit which was especially notable in Laine who camped out at the “Ovechkin spot” above the left face-off circle, but he also did rotate to the front of the net a couple of times.
One of the biggest criticisms right now of the Jets power-play has been it’s been all too predictable in both player and puck movement. Yesterday was an indication they may be switching that up.
Which is worse? Lack of rest, or way too much rest?
By the time the puck drops between the Jets and the Hawks tonight, the Jets will be slightly over 24 hours removed from having beaten the Ottawa Senators. This is the eighth time they are playing in a back-to-back set this season and they’ve been very much middle of the road in terms of their record in the second game having gone 3-4-0. There is a slight difference here of course from your regular two games in two days feature as game one was played in the early afternoon while game two goes a little later the following evening.
The other thing maybe worth noting is it’s not like the Jets had a massive challenge to overcome in game one. No disrespect intended to the Ottawa Senators, but things had all been pretty much decided by the end of the second period and all the Jets had to do was play smart, simple hockey in the third period to bring home a win without any real major emotional or physical investment.
Meanwhile the Blackhawks haven’t played since last Wednesday when they suffered a 2-1 OT loss to the Boston Bruins. A three day break in February is a rarity for any hockey team but was no doubt welcome by the Hawks who now embark on a five game road trip through Western Canada that starts in Winnipeg and ends one week later in Winnipeg.
So all this begs the question, is it better to have the three days of rest between games, or is it perhaps better to have played the day before where players may be sore and a little tired, but also still in full-on game mode and not needing to try and get back into gear.
Maybe neither of these things matter and whatever the case, it’s not like tonight will provide a definitive answer once and for all, but it’ll be still worth watching.
Chicago comes in at the bottom of the division and while their last ten games played looks good record wise (6-2-2), they’ve needed extra time to get a win out of the last three games they’ve played coming out of the All-Star Game break. This game maybe doesn’t fall into the “winnable” catagory that the Ottawa game fell into yesterday for Winnipeg, but if the Jets are serious about making a playoff push, this is a game they should win and do so in regulation.
I’ll suggest they go halfway in that goal just to hedge my bet. Jets win in overtime 4-3