And let's not kid ourselves. It's likely the last game of the season, as the odds of the Rangers and Senators both losing out in regulation are not very good, but in order to keep the post-season dream alive a victory tonight over the Habs is essential.
The 9th-place Winnipeg Jets trail the aforementioned Rangers and Sens by only a single point, but New York has two games left and Ottawa has three. Both of those teams are also in action tonight, and if they each earn two points then the season is over, but the Jets can only control what they can control and that is taking advantage of a floundering Habs team that have struggled mightily of late.
Despite coming off of the crippling loss to the Capitals on Tuesday, the Jets are still 6-1-1 in their last 8 games and have a chance to finish the season with 53 points. At the beginning of the year it was assumed that this point total would have been close to earning a playoff spot, and it looks like it will be. Sadly, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
On a sad note (or a happy one, depending on your point of view), tonight's game could be the final one for Nik Antropov, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome and the rest of the UFA's-to-be in Winnipeg Jets jerseys (Kyle Wellwood as well, but his injury means we won't see him tonight). What type of send-off would you give these players, or the team in general, when the horn goes to end tonight's game?
Keys to the Game:
- Finish off strong: This season has been comprised of high peaks and low valleys, but the Jets are currently atop a bit of a peak as their 6-1-1 run has kept them alive. A win tonight would finish off a stellar run to the end, and if it wasn't for some other incredible runs from other teams (looking at you, Washington...) it might have been enough.
- Send the fans home happy: 15,004 fans will file into the MTS Centre for potentially the final time this season, and will do whatever they can to help push their team to a win. I expect one of the loudest buildings yet, as the last game of the regular season is still meaningful. That's pretty cool.
- Boost the stats: Andrew Ladd needs two points tonight to finish with 48 points in 48 games. That would be awesome, and would cement (if he already hasn't done so, which he certainly should have) his nod as team MVP. Ladd and Blake Wheeler each needs two goals to get to 20, while Evander Kane needs 3, while Dustin Byfuglien needs 3 points to get 30 on the year.
- Right the ship: The Habs are headed to the playoffs, but they are doing so in a major tail-spin. Winners in only one of their last six and two of their previous eight games, Montreal couldn't have picked a worse time to struggle. They'll be looking to turn it around tonight in a hostile environment.
- Find the real Carey Price: The Price has been wrong of late. Carey Price has one win in his last six starts, and his 0.838 sv% and 3.67 GAA in those games are downright hideous. If Montreal is to go anywhere in the post-season, they will need to get Carey Price playing well again.
- Get on the power-play: As bad as Montreal has been of late, a lot of their ills can be solved by drawing some penalties. The Habs are operating at a 21.2% clip with the man-advantage, which is 4th in the league. P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty and company are deadly on the power-play so the Jets will need to stay out of the box.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Alex Galchenyuk. Because he's way too good for a 19-year-old.
Winnipeg 4 - F