The Winnipeg Jets 2.0 have accomplished a feat they were unable to at any point last season: legitimately get to .500. With two wins in four games, the Jets can say they've won at least half of their games for the first time since moving from Atlanta.
Two straight wins against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins proves that the Jets can hang tough with superstars like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The Jets now face a team many would view as one of the weaker teams of the Eastern Conference in the New York Islanders. The Isles have some talented pieces, but they are still quite far from being a playoff worthy puzzle. Still, they too have managed to gain a .500 record through 4 games, and this game will prove a test of the mettle of both teams. Are they legitimate threats to making the post-season, or was this just a string of good luck?
Normally after 4 games, I would think it foolish to even consider the post-season. However, there are just 44 games left until the playoffs start, and a streak one way or the other can make or break chances of making it into the post-season. So the Jets will have to hope that the top lines continue to mesh, that Ondrej Pavelec can shoulder the load in net, and that Zach Bogosian gets back in a hurry so that the Jets defense can look even more solid than it already has.
And if Mark Stuart is reading, please pay no attention to what the other writers say about you. i think you're just dandy. And so does EA Sports, and in the end that's all that really matters. Because if it's in the game, it's in the game.
Keys to the Game:
- Beware of Power Lines: The Jets have discovered new chemistry on their top scoring lines since Coach Clause Noel shuffled the deck after the season opening loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. The top line of Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Blake Wheeler has shown the Jets faithful that it has the capacity to be a frightful force, as Wheeler and Kane have shown that they can generate offense together.
Line 1B with Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov and Bryan Little has also generated offense, as Little being switched back to wing has seen his offense regenerate and give hope that he can attain numbers similar to his 31 goal season in 2008-2009.
- Pavelectric: Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec will endure constant scrutiny as long as he is between the pipes in Winnipeg, but the past few games have done much to silence his critics, stopping 91 of 96 shots in his last 3 games. Yes, our numbers crew will say that these stats are bound to regress to the mean, but in the mean time, I'll acknowledge his great play of late. If the Jets are to *gasp* contend for the Southeast Division title, they'll need their 3.9 million dollar man to be in fine form.
Ed. note: Al Montoya will get the nod over Pavelec tonight, marking his first start as a Jet. In 57 NHL appearances Montoya has 21 wins, 17 losses, 10 losses in extra time while posting a 2.76 GAA and a .906 save percentage.
- Clitty Clitty, Bang Bang: The Jets defense crew has proved to have stepped up their game in the early days of this season. That is, except for Grant Clitsome, who seems to be the weakest link of the 6 man crew. Poor decisions with the puck have been costly, as turnovers that directly lead to goals are sure to draw the ire of the fans and coaches alike. The Jets need to survive a few more weeks before Zach Bogosian returns, so Clitty will have to step up his game if he wants to retain a spot in the starting lineup when reinforcements arrive.
New York Islanders
- The Lonely Island: The Islanders will be moving from one part of Long Island to another in 2015, as they are Brooklyn bound. I doubt that will improve their on ice product, as it is not the fans that have made this once great team into a laughing-stock. Former Manitoba Moose Michael Grabner has provided most of the offense this year for the Isles, while Future Jet John Tavares has 4 helpers in the 4 games New York has played.
- Are they for real?: New York is 2-2, having picked up victories against the Southeast Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs, while losing to the Bruins and Devils. The wins suggest the Isles are a good team, as the loss is Tampa Bay's only setback this season, while beating Toronto is to be expected, and nothing to brag about. The losses suggest that this team isn't quite ready for prime time and that their are still some kinks to be worked out. We'll see which caliber team shows up in Winnipeg on Sunday
- If I had Aucoin for every time the Jets beat the Isles last season: I'd only have one coin. The Isles were one of many "weaker" teams that the Jets failed to capitalize against last season. New York won 3 of 4 meetings between the two squads. Now while this had little to do with Keith Aucoin, it is worth noting that the 34 year old has put up 4 points in 4 games this year. Aucoin has only played 106 career NHL games, but 41 points in that time, and very impressive AHL numbers means he may finally have found himself a spot to shine in the NHL.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Future Jet John Tavares, because he is easily the back upon which this Islanders team rides.
Winnipeg Jets 4
New York Islanders 1 - F