Tonight could potentially be a lot of good or a lot of bad for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets need to win a good chunk of their remaining games if they hope to stay in the playoff hunt. Jets losses are bad. Washington Capitals, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators losses are good. It is a pretty simple formula.
For the out of town scoreboard watchers - A Jets win and a loss by either the New York Islanders or the Washington Capitals puts the Jets in control of their own destiny from here on out. The math is > here < if you are interested.
That said, scoreboard watching won't mean much if the Jets don't handle their own business. The Jets will be a rested team. They have had four days off. The Tampa Bay Lightning on the other hand will be playing their 3rd game in four nights. Can the Jets jump on what should be a tired team?
The Lightning may be out of the playoff picture, but they are always a dangerous squad. Yes they traded away their 5th leading score at the deadline, but they still have a lot of offensive fire power. Ondrej Pavelec and the Jets defensive grouping will have to be sharp.
Keys to the Game:
Like They Never Left: The Jets have been white hot of late. They are on a three game winning streak and have finally pulled their home record above .500. They were rolling... then they had a four day break. Can they pick things up where they left off?
Paving the Way: Ondrej Pavelec has been the difference between wins and losses all year. When he shows up to play, the Jets win games. When he no-shows, the results are less than spectacular. The first game after a layoff has given Pavelec problems over his career. This can't happen tonight.
Defend Defend Defend, Especially Early: The Lightning are an offensive powerhouse and despite recent returns the Jets aren't built to win track-meets night in and night out. The Jets will need to keep pucks away from Ondrej Pavelec early on just in case it takes him a while to find a groove.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Defend While You Try to Score: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier score A LOT, but they are also on the ice for a ton of goals against. None of that trio is in the plus and they aren't posting great possession stats either. It is hard to win when your biggest offensive threats are arguably your biggest defensive liabilities.
Goalies Are Important: Like the Jets, the Lightning have been struggling to find consistency from their goaltenders. Unlike the Jets, the Lightning have been working to improve it. Ben Bishop is largely unproven, but his career is off to a very solid start. Bishop was stealing games with regularity in Ottawa; the Lightning are going to need him to slide back into brick wall mode.
Score Early: The Jets have a history of slow starts and have shown that they can check out of games if things aren't going well. The Lightning are going to want to test Winnipeg's young bunch.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Teddy Purcell - Because he is a very good hockey player and nobody cares about him enough to talk about him.
Tampa Bay 2 - F