Ah, the sweet smell of Rocky Mountain air. It's been a while.
On the heels of a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets find themselves in Denver tonight, taking on the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center for the first time since 2011. The Jets, as is their custom, head into this contest sporting a spectacularly mediocre 5-5-2 record (6th in division, 12th in conference) after picking up a win in Dallas last night. The Avalanche, meanwhile, are the talk of the league, off to 9-1-0 start and with their 18 points sit 2nd in the entire league. I'm not sure what new coach Patrick Roy's putting in the Kool-Aid, but it sure seems to be working.
Semyon Varlamov, off to a 6-1 start with a shiny .948 SV%, will start between the pipes for the Avalanche, according to the Denver Post's Adrian Dater. As for the Jets, head coach Claude Noel has yet to confirm who will get the start tonight. Heading into their second game in as many nights though, let's hope it's Al Montoya.
Evander Kane, still battling the flu, appears to be a game-time decision again tonight. Kane played yesterday though, so I expect we'll likely see the same today.
Keys to the Game:
Start Montoya - It's well-documented that goaltenders typically struggle in back-to-back games. After starting (and playing great) just 24 hours ago, Jets' starter Ondrej Pavelec is due for a night off.
- Limit the penalties - The Winnipeg Jets currently sit 3rd in the league with 55 minor penalties through 12 games. They're tops in the league with three bench minors, Dustin Byfuglien currently leads the NHL with 10 minor penalties, and Evander Kane isn't far behind with 7 of his own. If the Jets are going to be successful, they need their best players to stay on the ice.
- Finish strong - Teams have a tendency to fade in the later stages of a back-to-back game. As cliche as it sounds, the Jets need to keep their energy levels up for the full 60 (or 65) minutes.
Last Change - The Avalanche typically roll three scoring lines, and playing at home with the last change, Patrick Roy will get to dictate the line matchups more often than not. The Jets' fourth line against the likes of Matt Duchene isn't inspiring confidence in anyone.
- Special Teams - The Avalanche's penalty kills is currently tops in the NHL (91.2%) and their power-play is converting on 22.9% of its opportunities. If the Avalanche can play a good chunk of tonight's game on the power play (and we've already established that the Jets have a propensity to play short-handed), the Jets are going to be in trouble.
- Varly being Varly - Both Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere have been spectacular this season, and they're going to continue to need to be. With 33.4 shots/against (25th in the NHL) and a 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage of just 46.2% that's better than just the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Buffalo Sabres, the Avalanche's record is a bit of a mirage. But great goaltending cures all.
Player (coach!) to boo:
Patrick Roy. He won't be able to hear it anyway, what with those Stanley Cup rings plugging his ears.
Avalanche - 4