The Winnipeg Jets have won three straight games and five of their last six, and will look to extend these hot streaks with a victory over the cellar-dwelling Washington Capitals. With a combination of any points by the Jets and a regulation loss by the Hurricanes, the Jets could wake up tomorrow morning in sole-possession of top-spot in the Southeast Division and the 3rd-overall seed in the conference.
The Jets currently sit at 4-5-0 inside the friendly confines of the MTS Centre, and will look to reach the 0.500 mark with a victory today before departing on a four-game road trip. The Capitals have not played well away from Washington though, as their 2-6-1 is one of the worst road records in the league, so the Jets will be looking to take advantage of another winnable game.
If I was to tell you that the leading scorer on the Caps this season wasn't Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom, would you believe me? Well, you should have, as Mike Ribeiro leads the team with 22 points (6 goals and 16 assists). The other two I mentioned are tied for second in scoring with 15 points apiece, but after Joel Ward (13 points) and Troy Brouwer (12 points), no other Washington skaters have more than 8.
Braden Holtby looks to be the starter this afternoon for the Caps, but he has struggled on the season as well. His record is 6-7-0, while his GAA is 3.26 and his save percentage is 0.899. And after some strong recent play, Ondrej Pavelec will actually have better numbers than the other goalie, as his GAA has dropped to 2.86 and his save percentage has risen to 0.901.
Where the Caps will certainly have the upper-hand is in the special-teams department, as their PP% of 27.3 is third in the league. While the Jets PK% has been much better of late and has crawled up to 71.2, it is still dead last.. And while Washington's PK% isn't much better at 76.1, it likely won't have to be great against the putrid Jets PP% that has fallen to 14.9 and 22th in the league.
Keys to the Game:
- Win the special teams battle: As mentioned above, the Caps do have a great power-play, so it will be very important to either come out even or better in the special teams battle. While Ovechkin might not be what he once was, I don't suggest giving him any more open space.
- Score the first goal: Winnipeg has opened the scoring in seven straight games, winning five of them. It is a trend that they should keep up as I believe they look and play way more confident with a lead.
- Give crowd something to cheer about: The MTS Centre was jacked up the other night, as they exploded in the 3rd period when Andrew Ladd scored the eventual game-winner. But until that, I thought it was pretty quiet in there. If the Jets want the crowd to be loud, they they'll need to give them something to cheer for.
- Draw penalties: With a power-play as potent as theirs, Washington would be well served to draw as many penalties as they can. I shudder to think of what the Caps could do with 5 or 6 attempts with the man-advantage...
- Get secondary scoring: The Caps have not been getting very much production from their lower lines, and will continue to struggle if teams are able to shut down Ovechkin and co. A dirty goal or two from their grinders would go a long way for this squad.
- Produce at 5-on-5: A major reason for the Caps woes this season has been their inability to score at even-strength. They've only manged to score 52 goals so far this season, but 18 of them have been on the power-play and 1 came short-handed. That means that they've only scored 33 goals at even strength, an average of 1.73 per game.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Eric Fehr, because he's already scored more goals this year for Washington then he did all last season for the Jets. Oh, and because he's from Winkler.
Winnipeg 5 - F