It’s been a cold couple of weeks in Winnipeg, and it seems to be the favourite topic of small talk these days. The temperature outside doesn’t interest me so much though, I’m a born and raised Winnipegger and I’m used to it. The temperature that interests me much more is the temperature of Jets’ fans as a whole. I tend to use twitter to see where the fans are at. It may not be precise, but I am not pretending to be a scientist. For the most part, the temperature of Jets fans is like Calgary in winter…cold, Chinook, cold, Chinook, cold, etc. Lately, the temperature of Jets’ fans has been ice cold. A somewhat successful road trip where many will argue that they left easy points off the board combined with an awful 3-game homestand and you have a fan base just about on tilt. It was really a good time for the Jets to get out on the road on a mini roadtrip.
They started the roadtrip out with a somewhat unconvincing win, albeit a win, in Columbus last night. The Jets played a fairly decent game that had them tied or ahead throughout. They did make some mistakes that we do see all too often, such as a couple of irresponsible turnovers late and an inability to muster up any sort of transition game early. I don’t want to be too negative though. They got a win in a game that they should have won which is something that they are all too often accused of not doing. Evander Kane was back in the lineup and his line with Scheifele and Frolik looked really good.
The Jets look to sweep this mini Eastern Conference trip with a win over the hapless Sabres in Buffalo tonight. This is one of those aforementioned games that the Jets should probably be able to win. Buffalo has struggled this season and they look to be endeavouring into full rebuild mode moving forward. That, mixed with the Jets 2.0 having some real success against the Sabres(6-0-1) should have the Jets a confident bunch going into Buffalo tonight.
Keys to the Game
1) Gather momentum - The Jets have major uphill battle if they have any prayer of making it to the postseason. They need to go on a few streaks and those streaks need to be lengthy. These streaks aren’t possible if they continue to follow the "one step forward, one step back" mould that everybody is used to. They need to get on a streak and now is the time…they don’t really have an option.
2) Injection of youth - Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik have really begun to find some chemistry and they have been producing on the scoreboard over the past 10 games. Add Evander Kane to this line and you have a young line that can really pack some punch. If the Jets want to get on any sort of a winning streak, they will need this trio to carry a large chunk of the load. A strong game against the Sabres will do them quite well in the confidence department.
3) Continue their power play…prowess? - The Jets much maligned power play seems to have finally turned a corner. The lack of scoring had generated a lot of conversation all season but it has turned around as of late. The Jets are 5 of 18 in their last 4 games on the PP. That is a lot better than the 12% that they have been hovering around almost all year. They have actually climbed all the way to 26th in the league. That climb needs to continue.
1) Fly Out of the Gates - The Jets may be coming off of a win, but they are still a team on tilt and any sort of adversity early COULD lead to an implosion. Set a physical tone early, score in the first 10 minutes or really open up the flow of the game and the structure of the team may fall apart for the night. If you want to beat this team, early is the best time. It is worth noting though that the Sabres are 0-4-2 when they score first.
2) Keep net traffic to a low - The Sabres have allowed an astounding 34 shots per game so far this year, that’s good for 3rd worst in the league. The Jets love to play a game where they shoot from anywhere (32SPG, 7th) and it has resulted in a large number of their goals being "garbage" goals. The Sabres need to try to reduce traffic in front of their net therefore reducing second opportunity shots.
3) What do they have to lose? - The Sabres are the worst team in the league and it isn’t even really close. They are 7 points clear of second worst in the league and have less than HALF AS MANY POINTS AS THE JETS. Think about that for a second. We thought things were frustrating in Winnipeg? The Sabres fan base has turned against them and their ownership has been convinced to begin a rebuild. What does this team have to lose. May as well go out there and try to crush the spirits of as many fringe teams as they can. They will be well rested, their last game was OT loss to the hapless Flames on Saturday, and they are going up against a team that is on very soft ground right now. May as well throw everything at them.
I see a spirited effort from the Jets when they need it most
Winnipeg Jets 4
Buffalo Sabres 1