Nothing like a good old fashioned skate to the face! - Bruce Bennett
The Ottawa Senators host the Winnipeg Jets on Hockey Day in Canada. Oh boy!
bright eyes! Jets!
After a solid 3-1-1 start to the season, the Jets have skidded off the runway. Clunking along to a 4-5-1 record thus far the things that seemed so promising when the Jets won three straight have vanished. The powerplay is severely missing big guns Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian, while the faceoff dot is once again a place of headache inducing results.
The promise of the top line of Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Blake Wheeler has also lost its luster, as Coach Claude Noel has stated that he intends to juggle lines around after the top unit has combined to be -20 thus far. It is not that they are not generating offense, but rather it is awful team defense and suspect goaltending that is keeping the Jets from returning to the win column. Blowing leads late in the third period and not coming away with anything to show for it is a recipe for not making the playoffs, and as we rapidly approach the quarter mark of this shortened season, it quickly becomes crunch time.
The Jets need to prove they can win on the road, something that has plagued them for some time, and get the opportunity to do so in Ottawa this afternoon. A team without Jason Spezza, Ottawa must rely on strong goaltending as well as strong defense to make up for the lack of firepower. On the blueline, Erik Karlsson is as good as they come and earned himself the honour of winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy last season for top defenseman,
A man looking to contend for that title might very well be the Jets' own Tobias Enstrom, who has stepped into the massive void created by Dustin Byfuglien's continued absence. Speaking of absences, Zach Bogosian will very likely miss out returning to play this afternoon, but look for him next week. Buff, on the other hand, does not seem to have a timetable for return, which is annoying of the Jets to string their fans along like that. Don't go saying he tweaked something and then let us watch 10 games without him.
Speaking of missing games, Ondrej Pavelec is battling a flu bug and is unlikely to play today after missing yesterday's practice, so expect to see the Big Cubano in net for the Jets.
Keys to the Game:
- The Full Monty: With Pavs battling the flu, it's very likely that Al Montoya plays this afternoon. His debut in net for the Jets may have earned a win, but his numbers were less than impressive and certainly raised a few eyebrows. Edward Pasquale cannot get here fast enough.
- Will the real Blake Wheeler please stand up: The top line of the Jets has generated offense, but defensively they've been as effective as wet toilet paper. Blake Wheeler has 9 points, but is also a minus 9 through 10 games, and it would be nice to see him play responsibly night in and night out at both ends of the rink.
- Shots, Shots, Shots Shots, Shots Shots! Everybody could stand to shoot a little more, as in the past few games the Jets have had several periods where they failed to generate even 5 shots on goal. Part of this has been the increasingly apparent difficulty of breaking into the attacking zone, or cutesy passing once they do break in. Throw the puck to the net and good things happen, it's just that simple. Ask Phil Kessel, sooner or later one goes in.
- Put the special back in special teams: The Jets are converting 21.4% of their extra man opportunities, while killing just 63.6% of their penalty kills, which is just an awful stat. On a team that takes pride in taking stupid penalties (looking at you Andrew Ladd) you can not afford to concede that many goals when playing a man down.
- Ogling Anderson: Craig Anderson has been dominant in the net for the Sens thus far, and is a big reason why the Sens are 6-3-2. Sooner or later, though, his stats have to get worse than 1 goal per every 20 shots.
SecondaryPrimary scoring: The absence of Spezza hampers the ability of Ottawa to put points on the board, so certain players have to step up to fill that void. Milan Michalek is a notorious Jet killer, and Kyle Turris is quietly having a solid season. Those players will need to continue to be successful if the Sens are to take pressure off the pads of Anderson.
- Home Ice Advantage: Ottawa is 4-0-2 this year at home, which goes a long way in the standings.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Chris Neil, because that wanker had the game winning goal in the Jets' home opener.
Ottawa 2 - F (SO)
Ed. Note: Due to time constraints and prior obligations, there will be no edition of the Morning Skate today. We apologize to any of you who happen to enjoy that feature.