The Winnipeg Jets need wins - nothing else matters. The opponent is tough and we all know that the Chicago Blackhawks won't make it easy on the Jets, but the opponent is irrelevant at this point. The Jets need to start stacking wins and collecting points if they want to prevent this season from getting out of hand before Christmas.
Both teams will be well rested for this Saturday afternoon showdown as neither side has dressed since Tuesday. The shared three days rest is where the similarities end though. The Hawks are the defending champs and they are off to another great start. The Jets, on the other hand, are too often chumps struggling to get over the hump.
The Blackhawks will be rightfully favored in this game. They should be the better team. They have more talent. They should win, but records don't matter at this point. The Jets are entering a brutal stretch of their schedule and they need wins. Can they pull it out?
Keys To The Game:
Eat All Free Pizzas: The Blackhawks are a very good hockey team. They are better than the Jets, but that doesn't mean they won't make any mistakes. If anybody on the Blackhawks coughs up the puck in scoring position - the Jets NEED to capitalize.
Don't Be So Gosh Dang PIMmy: The Jets penalty kill is strong, but there are very few units that can survive when the opposition gets five plus opportunities a night. A top 10 penalty kill is good, not having to use it is better. Over the last three seasons the Jets have bounced from the 6th most penalized team to the 2nd least penalized team and they're currently the 2nd most penalized team. How does this happen?
More Goaltending: All in all the Jets goaltending has actually been okay this year - it hasn't been great and some errors have been more obvious than others, but as a team the Jets are tied for 16th in the league in 5 on 5 save percentage (12th overall). The goalie numbers are pretty close to average; that may not cut it here, though. Ondrej Pavelec is likely to face a ton of shots, and he will need to stop a good percentage of them if this team will have a chance.
Follow the Leader: Captain Serious, Jonathan Toews, leads this team on and off the ice. He is one of the best players in the NHL. He is a constant threat to score, he plays a great two way game, and he will also be playing in his home town. There is little doubt that Toews will have a good game. If his teammates follow suit - they will likely win.
Avoid the PK: The Hawks had the league's 3rd ranked penalty kill last year. Exit Michael Frolik and they sit in 30th. Of course, the change isn't all on Frolik (I mean he can hardly crack the Jets PK unit) and the Hawks are actually doing an okay job of shot prevention, but the Hawks would be wise to avoid a PK that is allowing goals against 27.5% of the time.
Under Pressure: Put pressure on the Jets' D. Any type of sustained attack tends to lead to a breakdown. It doesn't matter who is out there - pressure them. Granted some pairings are easier to pin than others, but pin 'em and pounce should be game plan.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Jonathan Toews - Why so serious?
Jets - 5
Blackhawks - 4