Winnipeggers went into 2013 with some cautious optimism. The Jets had made some positive moves in the off-season and all indications early were that they were heading in the right direction in terms of the organizational "5-year plan". Here we sit, 15 games into this young season the optimism that existed in this city has all but burst. The start to this season has been awful. The Jets sit one spot ahead of the basement in the Western Conference.
One of the biggest reasons that all optimism is dead is that all of the problems that existed over the past two seasons still exist. The Jets can’t score on the power play, the Jets cannot put together a complete team effort, Ondrej Pevelec cannot stop pucks that he needs to stop, the Jets cannot win faceoffs, the Jets cannot play team defence. It is the same drum that has been pounded on for over 2 years now.
This brings us to tonight, and it doesn’t get any better folks. The Jets are in the midst of a terribly ominous schedule and it continues with the 9-4-2 Red Wings rolling through. The Red Wings are looking to complete a clean sweep of Canada’s portion of the Western Conference. They have already taken care of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton and the 5-8-2 Jets are all that stand between the Wings and a 4-0 road trip. The Jets need to dig deep and find a way in this game. They need to give their room confidence, they need to give their fan base confidence and they need to give their coaches confidence. They are entering a daunting 5 game stretch (DET, CHI, NSH, SJ, DET) and if they are unable to string anything together and they go 0-5 like many predict it may spell the end for the Claude Christmas regime.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Clean up transition game - For some reason, the Jets have shown a complete inability to get anything started from their own. There is no crispness in their zone exits and their offence is being continually thwarted in the neutral zone. The Jets need to find some sort of chemistry on offence and that chemistry needs to start not in the offensive zone but in their own end
Avoid defensive breakdowns - The Jets have actually been playing a half decent defensive game. It is a lot crisper than it was at the start of the season as evidenced by the drop in shots from what we were seeing in the first week. The difference is that Pavelec was playing well in that first week and he is playing terribly now. The Jets need to step up for their goalie and avoid the handful of terrible defensive series that have been plaguing them over the past couple weeks. They cannot give Detroit scoring chances because if they do, we all know that they will capitalize. It does look like Montoya is getting the start tonight, but the Jets still need to do a better job in the defensive zone protecting their goalies.
Find a way on the power play - The Jets power play is awful. Its embarrassing actually. The Jets PP is ranked 26th in the NHL, and oddly enough the Jets are 22nd in the league in terms of standings(with most teams behind them having games in hand). Their power play has no flow, it has no continuity, it doesn’t even look close. The Jets need to find a way to break out of this funk and score when they have more guys on the ice than the other team. It’s as simple as that.
Take the crowd out early - Everybody comes in talking about the great home ice advantage that the Jets have. It’s starting to seem though that it’s based on hearsay and not on reality. The Jets are having all sorts of problems winning at home and the home crowd has shown lately that they are very quick to tune out the game or even turn on their home team. Score an early goal or make the Jets look bad early and that home ice advantage has been squashed.
Take advantage of inexperienced defense - The Jets are very banged up on the back end. They are reaching quite far down their depth charts and even onto the waiver wire to fill their lineup. The Blackhawks had a hay day picking on the defensive pairing of Pardy and Chiarot and unless Claude Noel and Charlie Huddy find a way to protect the inexperienced Jets defense, the offensive prowess of the Red Wings will do the same. It looks like there has been a little shuffle on the back end with the insertion of Ellerby and Redmond into the lineup, but it is still an inexperienced pairing that Detroit will be looking to pounce on.
Clog up the neutral zone - As I mentioned earlier, the Jets have had a hard time generating any offensive push in the neutral zone. The Red Wings are a well coached team and they are known for playing a smart 2-way hockey game. Clog up the neutral zone and stymie the Jets fast and mostly one dimensional offense.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Daniel Alfredsson…he’s a turncoat and nobody likes a turncoat.
Detroit Red Wings - 4
Winnipeg Jets - 2