With the losses mounting to three straight and their Southeast Divisional foes holding games in hand, the time is now or never for the Winnipeg Jets to secure their 2013 playoff future. Tonight, they take to the ice in New York for the second time in as many nights, this time paying a visit to John Tavares and the New York Islanders.
Last night, despite trailing early, the Jets' were able to rally for a 2-1 lead and were on the verge of dominantion before a short-handed Ryan Callahan goal unravelled everything, prompting a 4-2 loss. This evening they dance with the aforementioned Islanders for only the second time this season; their first a 5-4 Winnipeg overtime victory back in late January.
Winnipeg currently holds a four-point lead on both the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals for divisional bragging rights, but both squads have played less games (Carolina 3, Washington 1) than the Jets. What was a 77% chance of being playoff bound only one week ago, the Jets are odds have dropped dramatically by over 30% thanks to the current losing streak.
The Islanders, for their part, have clung on the outskirts of the playoff picture these past few weeks, posting a 6-4-0 record in their last ten games. They too were in action last night; a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils which allowed them to keep pace with the New York Rangers for eighth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
Keys to the Game:
Smarten up, stupid: The Jets were 0 for 5 on the power play yesterday, mustering only seven shots and allowing a short-handed goal which totally flipped the game's momentum. The man-advantage has looked meek, passive and downright bad these past months and is in need of a surge. If the Jets are to be successful, Winnipeg has to win special team battles. It's as simple as that.
Can we get some scoring up in here!?: To put it bluntly, if Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler or Andrew Ladd aren't scoring goals, the Jets aren't winning hockey games. Paging Bryan Little, Kyle Wellwood and Antti Miettinen: any time you guys want to put some weight on your shoulders it would probably be appreciated by those breaking their backs for you.
Strike first: In each of their last three losses, the Jets have failed to score the first goal of the game. Before tomorrow night's puck drop, it would behoove Winnipeg to remember this simple limerick: If you wish to break your losing curse, simply
quote a bible verse play better in the first.
New York Islanders
SHHHOOOOOOOOOOT!: Going hand-in-hand with our last key for the Jets, Winnipeg struggles mightily when trailing early. For New York, the game plan should be simple: shoot early, shoot often.
The league's best kept secret: Could you imagine the hype surrounding John Tavares if he played on the other end of the New York strip? Or was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals or Boston Bruins? J.T. has quietly registered thirty-seven points in thirty-six games, good for ninth best this season. Charles Wang continues to salivate for his team's move to Brooklyn.
Nabbing wins: While his .905 SV% leaves something to be desired, Evgeni Nabokov has the Isles on the cusp of a playoff spot. Having played a team high thirty-one games this season, it will be up to him to continue giving his team their best chance to win night in and night out. Seriously, Nabokov has played every game for New York this season. That's crazy.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Ehhh, I'll take a pass since the Islanders are harmless and actually fun to watch.
New York 0 - F