After their quick start the Jets have stumbled back to .500 with losses in regulation to Anaheim and Minnesota in the past week. At 2-2-0 the Jets have fallen back to 3rd place in the Northwest Division. With just 3 goals for in the past two games after scoring 10 in the first two, the offense that looked so dominant early on has dried up in the past week. Jets are averaging just 23.2 shots on net per game, which is 30th in the NHL. Dallas is currently 29th with an average of 24.0. The good news is that the PP continues to be effective, scoring again last night as Bryan Little tipped home a Tobias Enstrom shot for his 3rd of the season. It sits at 22.2%, which ties it for 11th in the league in efficiency.
Ondrej Pavelec has been solid allowing just 5 goals in two games, and has improved his svp percentage to .913 on the season while being arguably the Jets best player this week. Jets defense continues to be a threat as both Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien have 5 assists on the year, tieing them both for 2nd in the league among defensemen scoring. They both share the team lead in points. Bryan Little leads the team in goals with 3 in 4 games, a positive sign after a really disappointing 7 goals in 48 games last season. Linemate Andrew Ladd is a team high +3 with 3 points.
The new look Dallas Stars (1-1-0) are the opponent tonight. Dallas has joins the Jets as a newcomer to the Central Division after years spent playing two time zones over in the Pacific. The Stars have completely revamped their roster from a year ago, adding Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Shawn Horcoff, Valeri Nichuskin, Sergei Gonchar as well as a full season from Erik Cole and Alex Chiasson. The Stars have had a light schedule to start the year, with only two games played and haven't had a game since last Saturday. While it might be nice to get extra practice with all the new faces in Dallas, light schedules need to have teams worried about rust and not being able to get into a rhythm. Their last outing was a disappointing 4-2 loss versus the woeful Panthers where they got outshot 38-27. Red hot rookie Alex Chiasson continues to be a story with 2 goals in 2 games, after finishing last year out with 6 goals in 7 games at the end of the year. With only 4 goals scored in two games this year, Chiasson is the leader in goals and points.
Keys to the Game
Quick Start: The Jets need to come out firing against the opponent that has not had much game experience early and has had 6 days off. The Jets started to come on in the 3rd period last night finally moving their legs, and will need to continue that type of play using their speed and physicality to the game tonight while Dallas is still trying to find their legs. It's still early in the season so fatigue shouldn't be too big a concern for the Jets.
Goaltending: Over his career Ondrej Pavelec has posted a .912 save percentage when you exclude the 2nd game of a back to back. He is .870 over 17 games on the 2nd night in a back to back situation where he played the first game. If that's not a damning statistic that Pavelec should NEVER play 2 games in a back to back situation, I don't know what is. Montoya should start. Let's see if Noel has learned anything.
Pressure Everywhere: As we mentioned above Dallas has a lot of new faces in the lineup this year. This is not a team that has spent much time together and has yet to play much together so the key will be to pressure Dallas everywhere on the ice to force them to give up pucks. Unfamiliar players will be unable to instinctively know where to go to counter that pressure, it will get Dallas running around and not playing the system they want to play. As a speed team, Winnipeg needs to take advantage and press in all 3 zones, no sitting back at any point tonight.
Weather the Storm: Coming back home to the noisy MTS Centre the Jets will be fired up, while Dallas hasn't played in 6 days. It will be important for Dallas to weather the early Jets attack. Assuming they do that Dallas should be able to start to take advantage of Winnipeg who had to fly in from Minnesota last night, so they are probably not running on a great night's sleep.
Pressure the Defense: Winnipeg's defense has looked shaky at best early on the season, sometimes coughing it up when not even under pressure (cough Bogosian cough), but under pressure guys like Clitsome, Stuart, Postma and yes even Bogosian have not been handling the puck very well in the early going. They are making bad plays with the puck and giving away easy opportunities. If Dallas can get pressure on these guys they will have a chance to bury Winnipeg.
Neutralize the Rush: Winnipeg is a team that absolutely depends on the goals of the rush. From the rushing D of Byfuglien, Enstrom, Trouba, Bogosian, Postma to Kane's shot and skating to LLW line, most of their production comes off the rush. In their entire time in Winnipeg the Jets have not been a grind it out cycle team, this is a team that thrives on goals off the rush. For Dallas they need to backcheck hard and maintain a high man in the offensive zone to have numbers going back to neutralize that. If they do that it is unlikely the the Jets will have much going offensively.
Players to Boo Mercilessly
Hate to pull the obvious and go for the best player (at least one of them) but it would have to be Tyler Seguin. The question is can we do better than just booing? Maybe a "Kessel's better"? Just thinking aloud...