If the biggest question on the Winnipeg Jets collective minds isn't either their ailing penalty kill or the fact that they've given up twenty-two goals over their past four contests, then something is glaringly wrong with this team's priorities.
Though the penalty kill and a frightening amount of goals allowed aren't mutually inclusive, it's been pretty darn close. In losses to the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Jets have given up eight goals while down a man; an average of 2.7 per game. Their league worst penalty kill effectiveness is downright farcical, outlined by our very own Ryan Blight yesterday.
That being said, they have been equally as lax defensively at even strength, still allowing fourteen a game at 5-on-5 dating back to their last win against the New York Islanders over a week ago Sunday. Make no mistake, there has been plenty of blame to go around. Whether it be defensive zone coverage or abysmal efforts at goaltending, Winnipeg's performance since a solid showing against the Pittsburgh Penguins just hasn't been up to NHL standards. Hell, Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning wouldn't have even got the job done at the AHL level.
Their showing in Sunrise last Thursday seems to have awoken the once 1-5-0 Panthers from their early season doldrums. Now with ten goals in their past two games to match two wins, the Panthers have quickly gained ground on divisional opponents, usurping the Washington Capitals for fourth in the Southeast and they now have the Jets in their sights. While this is partially due to the returns of Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Stephen Weiss, Florida also has a new found confidence in their powerplay, a unit that's been on a role since lighting up Ondrej Pavelec to the tune of three PPG's in their 6-3 win.
Since the Panthers stock is rising modestly whilst Winnipeg continues to sink quicker than Enron's, it begs to ask the question: how many goals will the Jets be giving up tonight?
The law of averages would suggest that for once, they will give up less than four. Also, history dictates they have a tendency to play better on home ice which could bode well for keeping the goals against down.
Furthemore, Perry Pearn has likely -- hopefully -- used these past three days to improve the paper-soft penalty kill, leading me to believe there will be marked improvement in that facet of the game when the puck drops tonight. At least, one can hope.
But unfortunately, like all things Winnipeg Jets, we just don't know for sure. I'll admit that I haven't been able to watch all thirty NHL teams in action yet this year, but it's hard to believe there's a team more unreliably streaky than the Jets. One day they're world beaters, the next they're as harmless as the Disney on Ice.
One this is for sure, If the Jets -- a team currently scoring an average of exactly three goals a game -- plan on winning tonight's game, they'll have have to keep Florida at no more than two.
As it stands, those odds are about as good as not blowing your brains out in a game of Russian Roulette.
How many goals will the Winnipeg Jets allow tonight? Let us know in the comments section below!