It most definitely has not been pretty so far but the Winnipeg Jets are doing everything that they can to help their fans forget about their awful preseason. Since the games have begun counting, the Jets are off to a hot start with a 2-0-0 record. These games have had their moments but they have been far from perfect. The Jets have showed their fans that they have a refreshing knack for scoring so far but they have also showed an inability to keep the puck out of the net. This brings us to tonight. The Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0) and the Teemu sideshow is coming into town.
Tonight’s game marks the second meeting between the Jets and Ducks since the Jets moved north. That game was full of pomp and won 5-3 by the home squad. It was a game that was immediately circled on everybody’s schedule when it came out. The prodigal son was coming home for what we all assumed was one final night. There were the optimists out there that were under the unwarranted opinion that Teemu would love to spend one final season in the town that welcomed him with open arms during his magical 92-93 season. That never happened, but tonight is the next best thing. Bruce Boudreau even gave him the night off last night just to prepare for tonight.
The Ducks have had a tumultuous start to their season so far. They led off their season by getting blown out by the Ava lance in a game that garnered national attention. Recently hired Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy took exception to a knee thrown against Nathan McKinnon late and nearly came to blows with Bruce Boudreau. They followed that up with a 4-3 overtime victory in Minnesota last night.
Tobias Enstrom didn’t skate with the team on Saturday due to what the team referred to as a "maintenance day" but D-men Grant Clitsome, who has yet to play this season, did. Whether the lineup is switched on the defensive end remains to be seen until later today. It is also safe to expect Coach Noel will continue to try to find the perfect line combinations at the bottom of the lineup throughout the night.
Keys to the Game:
Top line production: These first two games have been polar opposite to what we saw night in and night out last year. If Ladd, Little, and Wheeler weren’t producing last year then the Jets weren’t going to win. They lived and died by the top line. So far this season, Little, Wheeler and Ladd have only accounted for 3 of the 27 points accumulated by Jets players and 2 of those were on Little’s empty net goal on Friday night. It’s worked for the team so far, but the top line is going to need to find a way to get things in gear at some point and there is no time better than tonight.
Dustin Byfuglien: Buff will always be Buff. It is the reason that some people love him and the same reason that some people hate him. He is aggressive, he is a free spirit on the ice and he does what he wants to do when he wants to do it. A terrible turnover by Byfuglien led to the first goal by the Kings on Friday night and he found himself on the edge of the cliff on several other occasions throughout the game. Byfuglien has a way of reining himself in on some nights and when he does, he can carry a team on his back and when he lets loose on the reigns everything tends to blow up in the Jets face. Byfuglien will need to find a way to reign himself in against the offensively talented Ducks and make sure he plays a responsible game.
New top line?: The Jets have finally found some secondary scoring and it has worked out in spades so far. Kane(1G, 2A), Setoguchi(2G, 1A), and Scheifele(1G, 1A) have managed to find some chemistry so far. Evander Kane is playing like a man who feels slighted by hockey Canada and Mark Scheifele is fighting to show that he is no longer a boy playing in a man’s game. These guys will need to find a way to continue to produce while everybody waits for last year’s top line to start producing. If not then the Jets will have a hard time getting that third win tonight.
Sleep Well: The Ducks are the second team this weekend that follow a game in Minnesota with a game against the Jets the next night. Winnipeg is an emotional place to play and the Ducks are going to have to find a way to dig deep as the night goes on and the wear and tear of the gae begins to take its toll.
Eliminate the crowd: Winnipeg loves Teemu. The home crowd will be in this game ten minutes before the puck drops and they will continue to be in the game until the Ducks give them reason not to. The Ducks will need to strike early either on the scoresheet or in the physical department to try to earn an edge. If they don’t then the Jets will be able to feed off the crowd as fatigue sets in for the Ducks.
Top line Prowess: It’s no secret that team defence is one of the Jets’ Achilles heels. They may be 2-0-0 this year, but they have allowed 7 goals in those two wins. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been rather silent so far this year but it is time for them to pick on their opponent’s weakness and assert their dominance if they want to give their fans any hope for contending in the strong(regular season) Pacific division.
Players to Boo Mercilessly:
Everyone…except Teemu. That was one of my favorite things from last game. Let’s obviously let Perry and Getzlaf have it but when Teemu is on th ice, we need to make sure that we make it known that he is the only one welcome.
Jets 3 (OT) - F