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Winnipeg Jets Face Big Test in Minny

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What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object - in other words, the Winnipeg Jets versus the Minnesota Wild

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a painful loss to Nashville, where it appeared that the Jets would come away with at least a point, the boys in blue roll into Minnesota to take on another divisional rival. With a record of 9-7-2, the Jets currently sit 3rd in the Central division, but Chicago and Minnesota are each within two points, and hold games in hand.

See puck drop at 4 pm CST on TSN-3.

Thoughts

Winnipeg Jets

Make sure you SCORE: With 34 goals in 18 games, the Jets sit last in the Western Conference, and third last in the entire league in goals. Only the kids in Florida and Buffalo have scored fewer, and the Panthers actually have 4 games in hand. The blame can rightfully be spread around - beyond the old top-line of Ladd-Little-Wheeler, who have potted 19 goals, no other Jet has more than two! The only good news is that the shooting percentages of the main culprits - Kane, Scheifele, Byfuglien, Perreault, and Frolik - are hovering between 3% - 6%, so this particular level of futility is probably unsustainable.

Finding their Identity: It's no secret that the Jets have had trouble finding a calling card since their return to the Peg.  Are they a run and gun team? That was probably a fair statement in days past, where the Jets showed that a 9-8 game was more than just a remnant of the 80's Oilers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plD3QDMQyk0

But if you exclude the epic SO loss to the Penguins, it's now been 9 games since a Jets' goalie has given up more than 2 goals (empty nets excluded). Have we seen enough now to conclude that the Jets are officially a defence-first team?

Who Starts in Goal: After Michael Hutchinson got the start on Thursday, the thought from some members of the Jets-following MSM was that Pavelec was poised to start both games this weekend. And while Pavelec has played well for most of this season, with a 1.99 G.A.A, and .928 save %,  going by historical statistics, starting two in a row is probably a mistake.

Minnesota Wild

The Caboose is Leading the Charge: If you didn't know anything about the Wild's season thus far, and heard that their leading goal scorer was Nino Niederreiter (7), and that Ryan Carter was tied for the team lead in points (9), I think you'd probably assume that they were going through tough times. However, that really isn't the case, as the Wild have been getting scoring from almost every significant forward in their lineup, including young forwards Coyle, Zucker, Fontaine, Granlund, and the aforementioned Niederreiter. The one notable exception is Mikko Koivu, who despite a career points-per-game average of .74 (61 points pro-rated to 82 games), has only 4 points thus far.

Stats Say Tough Test: While their overall record is pedestrian at 9-7-0, the Wild are 6-1 at home this season, and 6-2 vs the Western Conference. Furthermore, their team Corsi is second best in the NHL at 56.3%, and with a PDO below 100 (99.17), their overall results stand to improve if they continue to control play at a similar rate. Something tells me this will be tough treading.

Key Injuries: One clear positive for the Jets is that Minnesota's captain, and spiritual leader, Zach Parise, remains out with an injury to the upper portion of his body. It's also likely that the Wild will be missing two young stud defencemen - Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella both missed Saturday's action with an illness.

Player to boo mercilessly

With Parise on the shelf, Ryan Suter surely becomes the focal point. He's all-but guaranteed to play 25+ minutes in regulation alone, and will likely have a big impact on this game.

Prediction

Facing a tough opponent in their home rink, and with only 19 hours in between games, the Jets are definitely in tough. In this case, a 2-3 SO loss might be considered an optimistic result.

Injury update:

It looks as though Parise will in fact play.