The Jets haven't lost in regulation for their last 6 games, and come into tonight riding a 3 game winning streak. Tonight they face one of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens have won 5 straight games by a combined score of 23-4. Yes - that was Penguins 23, Opposition 4, in their last 5 games. This is not a drill. The Penguins are truly on fire.
This might be the most difficult defensive strength test that the Winnipeg Jets will face all season. The Jets will need to score, but it's hard to imagine them winning a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Game action will initiate at 7:00 PM, at the MTS Centre. TV - TSN3.
Don't take penalties. Almost half of the Penguins' goals are on their deadly power play. They've scored 19 goals in 46 opportunities. 41% of the time it ends in a goal for the Pens. No penalties versus Pens, please.
Play in the Pens' end. Forecheck their defence mercilessly, and cycle the puck. Play "keepaway". Be opportunistic offensively, but don't let them have the puck. The Jets' third line has done a great job with cycling, and clogging up the neutral zone. One of the Jets' top three lines is going to need to outplay the Penguins' third line, while suppressing the juggernaut from Pittsburgh's top two lines.
Be physical. Word is that Evgeni Malkin can get rattled with some good contact. If Jacob Trouba can lead the Jets by making hits on Malkin & Co in the same way that he hit Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in the Chicago Blackhawks game, this could be a factor in the Jets' favour.
Shot differential. Unlike the Chicago Blackhawks, who are outshooting their opponents by a wide margin so far this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a modestly favourable shot differential thus far - 30.5 shots per game, versus 28.5 shots taken by their opposition. However, the Penguins have scored on 13.7% of their shots - a staggering percentage, when .920 is considered to be a decent save percentage (8% shot percentage).
Player to watch - Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist was acquired from Nashville in the James Neal trade. He's playing on the line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and has 7 goals, 8 assists, and 15 points, after just 11 games. Of course, I don't need to suggest that you watch Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin!
Penguin News. Marc-Andre Fleury just received a 4 year extension on his contract, worth $23 million. He'll likely be starting in net for Pittsburgh tonight.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Steve Downei. Let's agitate the agitator. Maybe he'll take a needless penalty. The Jets could use an extra power play opportunity.
If I'm being honest, I have to predict Pittsburgh will win 3-1. I predict that the Jets will do as well as any other team has in the last 5 games that Pittsburgh has played, which is allowing just 3 goals to the juggernaut. For the Jets to win, Ondrej Pavelec must have a superb game, and the Jets must control the puck in the Pittsburgh zone. Here's hoping!