Months of pining, binge drinking and borderline depression during the lockout have finally come to a head.
Three months after what was supposed to be the start of the 2012-13 season, the doors of the MTS Centre will finally welcome the NHL's return as the Winnipeg Jets play host to the Ottawa Senators in a matinee affair to be broadcast by CBC.
For the Jets, a good start to the season will be paramount, especially considering an abbreviated, conference driven schedule could separate the contenders from the pretenders in the first stretch of games. Winnipeg certainly didn't heed this advice last year, stumbling out of the gates to a 4-6-1 start which culminated in yet another post-season sans playoffs for the franchise.
The Ottawa Senators, for their part, will be looking to improve on a season which saw them claim the eight playoff seed in the East, to the surprise of many. The Sens rode that tidal-wave of emotion as far as it would take them, eventually succumbing to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Ottawa essentially imposed their dominance on Winnipeg last year, claiming the season series by a margin of 3-1-0 while outscoring the Jets by a total of 16-11 in those games. Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek were both extremely effective when facing Winnipeg, totalling a combined thirteen points (Spezza 7, Michalek 6) in the four game series.
For Winnipeg, poor goaltending was a focal point in last year's series as Ondrej Pavelec struggled in thwarting the Senators offense, posting a putrid 0-3-0 record with a .865 SV% and 4.46 GAA. Offensively, Winnipeg relied on Evander Kane and Kyle Wellwood to carry the load, each of whom had a team leading 4 points against Ottawa in the season series.
Keys to the Game:
- Where art thou Pavelec?: Despite what members of the MSM may lead you to believe, the Jets' success relies heavily on the play of Ondrej Pavelec. For a team that was middle-of-the-pack in both offensive and defensive advanced stat categories, the bottom line was their goaltending wasn't up to par. It will have to be better coming into this year.
- Kane's Country: After registering a 30-goal campaign in 2011-12, the sky seems to be the limit for Evander Kane. Will he be able to build upon last season's success?
- No go for Bogo: WIth undoubtedly one of their best all-around defensemen out of the line-up, the Jets will have to rely heavily on Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart to anchor their second pairing. Ooof Baboof!
- Goalie Carousel: Since Ottawa is travelling Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop for today's game, it's anyone's guess as to who will get the nod between the pipes for the Senators. Considering Anderson went 3-1-0 with a .932 SV% and 2.76GAA against the Jets in 2011-12, it's likely he will get the start.
- Super Spezza: Jason Spezza absolutely decimated the Jets in a way not many other players were capable of last season. As an integral part of Ottawa's offense, he will continued to be relied upon to pack a scoring punch along with his linemate, Milan Michalek.
- Silfver-who?: Despite a lack of fanfare, Jakob Silfverberg has deftly inserted himself into the Senators line-up and appears to have a first line gig locked down. Could parallels be drawn between he and another 40-year old Swedish teammate? Onlly time will tell.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Chris Neil. Because he really, really sucks at hockey.
Winnipeg Jets 3
Ottawa Senators 4 - F