Coming off a stunning, spirited game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Winnipeg Jets look to get back into the win column tonight when they visit the Canadian Tire Centre to take on the Ottawa Senators.
These Jets are playing decent, people. Surprisingly, happily, shockingly, they have been playing rather well as of late. There is every reason to believe that this Jets team can hold their own against tough competition, as they did with the Penguins. Yes, yes, they lost. I'm aware of that. But they played a majority of those 65 minutes and that was super nice to see. I'm hoping that their near win to the Penguins pushes them a little bit to play like they did that night tonight against the Senators.
The Senators haven't been having a terrible season so far. They sit twelfth in the league currently with a 7-3-2 record. Their defense, led by new Captain Erik Karlsson, is astoundingly talented and have made the difference in many games for the Senators.
Tonight is also Canadian Forces Appreciation Night for the Senators, which is very important. Friend of AIH and Senators writer, Eric Doty aka Bonk's Mullet, has a wonderful charity event planned tonight and while the funds raised will go to the Senators Foundation, the money will be given by the foundation to the Canadian Military Families Fund. I urge everyone to check out Sens Money on the Board and if you are able and feel like you want to, make a pledge for tonight.
Viva la Buff: Dustin Byfuglien appears to be in the heads of the Senators to some extent. In an interview with the Ottawa Sun, both goalie Craig Anderson and Jared Cowan spoke on him and him alone.
"You don't move that guy," said Anderson. "You need to play hard and physical on him. Even big guys don't like to be hit. You've just got to play physical and make him work hard. If you outwork the guy, we should be able to be quicker than him because he's got a lot of mass to move."
Cowan's comments were simliar, but slightly more "Buff is a fattypants" related:
"(Goalies) will just see around him, I don't know," he said. "Last year I didn't realize how heavy he was until he was in the corner with me. I don't know if he's actually 260 or not. I think he might be a little extra there. Not a lot of guys his size have his ability. I kind of enjoy sometimes playing against bigger guys more often. Reminds me of back in the day when I was playing junior and they always had a big guy on their team."
So, essentially the Jets need to use Byfuglien for all he's worth tonight. Here's hoping the big guy's on point and ready to play.
Watch the penalties, gentlemen: The Senators are pretty decent at the power play (20.4%, 11th in the league) but the Jets penalty kill has done wonders so far (89.3%, 3rd in the league). That doesn't mean that the Jets can go out and get a bunch of penalties and be okay though. As stated by Anderson above, the Senators are aware that they will need to be physical to throw Byfuglien off his game and it's safe to assume that they will extend that physicality to the rest of the team as well. The Jets need to tread the fine line between playing a good physical game and taking silly penalties, which will be challenging if the Senators intend to pester them tonight.
All about the D: I feel like I should just say *insert inappropriate sexy joke here* and move on, but the Senators defence has been faring well in games. Karlsson and company have been doing their absolute best out there and have really helped keep scoring against goalie Anderson to a minimum in recent games. Getting past them will most certainly be a challenge for the Jets tonight and if they can get past the defence, standing in net is the goalie equivalent of a brick wall by the name of Craig Anderson which brings me to.....
Standing tall in net: I heard Anderson is pretty stellar so I just checked on his stats and yeah, good luck, Jets. The goalie is currently leading the league with a .948 sv%. Huh. Okay. Keep doing what you're doing then on that account, Senators, but don't necessarily expect the Jets to make it easy. As we saw in the last game, the Jets have become more comfortable shooting the puck (averaging 28.0 shots against per game) and it will be up to Anderson and the defence in front of him to be on their game.
Be ready to drop the gloves (when the time is right): Okay, so it's no secret that there were almost more fights and scraps in the Jets last game against the Penguins than the Duggar family has kids. Using the Jets willingness these days to fight nearly anything that looks at them wrong will be key for the Senators. Maintaining physical play while minimizing scraps and resulting penalties will help the Senators frustrate the Jets efforts to engage in combat. Be pesty, but be smart about it.
Players to boo mercilessly
You probably want me to say Karlsson because he's Karlsson and there's a hot debate over his ability as a defenceman compared to others in the league and should he really have gotten that shiny trophy and blah. I secretly love the guy. Boo him if you want to, but I think a better target for the boos is Craig Anderson and/or Curtis Lazar.
Anderson: because he does his job too well.
Lazar: He's pretty new here. Why not give the kid a friendly welcome?
Senators 4, Jets 2. Anderson with ALL the stars of the game.