After a couple of very disappointing games, first a 3-0 home loss against the Washington Capitals, and then getting their 4 game road trip off on the wrong foot with a 4-1 loss against the Florida Panthers, the Winnipeg Jets rebounded nicely last night by posting a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay against the every dangerous Steven Stamkos and the Lightning. The Jets received stellar goaltending from Al Montoya, and had goals from Eric Tangradi and Bryan Little, which doubled the team's offensive output from the previous two games.
Looking to build on that victory, and get back on the path to the playoffs, the Jets return to Sunrise, Florida tonight to take on the Panthers yet again. This is the fourth of five times the teams will play each other this season, with the home team winning all 3 meeting thus far. The Jets have been outscored 10-4 in their two visits to Sunrise this year, as home ice advantage seems to work for the Panthers, despite the small crowds.
Both teams are coming off of games last night, but with very different results. Florida was absolutely annihilated by the Caps, by a 7-1 margin as Jacob Markstrom let in the first two shots he faced and got yanked accordingly. That's the same goalie who stopped 30 of 31 shots two days earlier hosting the Jets. It will be interesting to see if Markstrom or Scott Clemmensen get the nod tonight.
The gap between first place and fifth place in the Southwest Division is just 8 points, so these Division games are very key in deciding who will get the automatic playoff spot that comes with winning the Southeast Division. As this promises to be the last year the Jets play in the Division, it would be nice to see them hoist a banner before moving to a more geographically logical set of teams. To do that, winning the season series would be a good step, and the Jets will need to win their remaining two games against the Panthers to pull that off. Which is easier said than done.
Keys to the Game:
- Rinse, lather and repeat: The Jets did a lot of things right yesterday, and apart from maybe netting more goals, could stand to seek to replicate that performance against the other Floridian team tonight.
- Do the Full Monty: I would be rather shocked if Ondrej Pavelec got the start in goal over Al Montoya tonight. Yes, Pavs is the starting goalie now and for the foreseeable future, but typically you ride the hot hand, and Monty is the hot hand after last night's gem of a performance.
- Special teams: Winnipeg has a better penalty kill than the Florida Panthers. Yes, the Jets are officially no longer the worst at playing 4v5 hockey, as their solid play as of late has seen them jump passed Florida into 29th in the League. This is promising news, as the power play still struggles to find the back of the net.
- Overcome injuries: The amount of people hurt on Florida right now is staggering, and it's no wonder that they are 3-6-1 in their last 10. The fact that Winnipeg lost to this team of "AHLers" as one member of AIH put it, is rather embarrassing. I'm pretty sure Kris Versteeg still managed to score on Winnipeg on Tuesday despite being out with a chest injury.
- Calder Watch: One of the reasons that Florida has not imploded altogether is the play of rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads all rookies with 11 on the year, and got one via penalty shot against Winnipeg on Tuesday. When a team has as few weapons as the Panthers currently have, it is imperative that the Jets shut down the few remaining. Uber-Dough is one of those few.
- Stop the puck: It got ugly last night in D.C., so it's a good thing not many people went. The Panthers let in 4 goals in the first 8:10 of the game to effectively seal the victory before the first period was half over. Clemmensen's save percentage on the night was .792 while Markstrom managed a perfect .000.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Jack Skille, because I haven't forgotten.
Florida 1 - F