The Winnipeg Jets (8-7-2) road trip of sadness continues against those pesky Nashville Predators (9-3-3), who with 21 points currently sit in the 1st Wild Card slot.
Catch tonight's tilt on FS-TN, City and TSN 1290, 6:00 PM Central Time.
Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets
Scotty, I need more power!: In the last five games, the Winnipeg Jets power play has gone 1 for 15, while the penalty kill allowed 5 power play goals against. Needless to say a 6.7% power play conversion rate is not going to cut it, and though I'm certain it's not that bad and will bounce back, sooner rather than later would be nice.
I'm a little tired of the 25% rule: Okay, the goaltending hasn't been letting in 25% of shots, nor do I think Pavelec has been quite as bad as his stat line would suggest. But the fact remains that the Jets need more saves than they're currently getting, and sometimes the position demands the outrageous (as we were privy to earlier in the season).
Pav's last three outings include save percentages of .909, .667 and .875, while Hutch's are .556, .935 and .938. Both this and simple rotation execution would suggest Hutch is in, but to be honest I don't particularly care who it is, so long as they provide at least league average goaltending.
Just win, baby: And on that note, I'm beyond caring about how Winnipeg wins on this road trip. Process be dammed, I'll take an ugly victory at this point (and to be fair, sometimes you need that ugly win to get the ball rolling and regain the confidence for better things). A 2-2 record on this road trip of doom would have been largely received as acceptable, and it's still within reach.
Keys to the Game: Nashville Predators
And you thought the Jets were slumping: James Neal has 0 goals in the past 5 games, while $4.25 million dollar man Craig Smith has a grand total of 3 points in 15 games. The Predators will need Smith in particular to snap out of it and return to the level of play which just earned him that contract.
Like Toronto, but better: Similar to the Maple Leafs, Nashville does not have a forward corps overflowing with star power or offensive talent, and so they lean on their d-corps to help pick up the slack. Roman Josi has 11 points in 15 games, Weber 9 in 15, Ryan Ellis 7 in 14 and Seth Jones 7 in 15. Josi and Weber in particular are also major contributors on the power play, with 11 PPP between them. Let's try and be hard on this rather capable Nashville blueline.
Not so impekkable: Ondrej Pavelec isn't the only goaltender with an interesting stat line of late. In the last five games, Pekka Rinne has turned in save percentages of .862, .931, .857, .808 and .957. The Preds managed to go 2-1-2 over that stretch, but more consistent excellence is needed from Rinne.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Roman Josi, for being an integral part of the Nashville Predators' d-corps, one signed to an absolute sweetheart of a deal. Why can't he be more like that other Roman. No, not that Roman, the hockey player who likes dogs.
Maybe I'm jumping on the negativity train, or perhaps it's just early in the morning and I'm grumpy. Either way, the Nashville Predators score a PPG, Winnipeg's goaltender makes 26 saves on 29 shots, and the Jets fall to 0-3-0 on this road trip.
Winnipeg loses 3-2. At least Nashville doesn't score an empty net goal, so there'll be that.