It's Jets 1.0 vs. 2.0, as both clubs look to end 2015 on a winning note. Coming off victories against Pittsburgh and Detroit, the Winnipeg Jets are now 6-5-0 in December, 17-17-2 on the season and seventh in the Central. Meanwhile, the very possibly playoff-bound Arizona Coyotes sport a 17-16-3 record and the third seed in the Pacific. Long story short, if you want to make the playoffs in the Central Division, get good.
Catch the game tonight, 8:00 PM Central Time on TSN3, TSN 1290 and something called FS-A PLUS.
Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets
Step Up: All In: Winnipeg may be undefeated during Mark Scheifele's time on the IR, but that won't last long if folks don't continue to step up. Bryan Little is making a case for this team's heart and soul, between his penalty shot game-winner against Pittsburgh, three assists against Detroit and 32 points in 36 games. He is our Mr. Dependable.
The win over Detroit saw a two-goal offensive outburst from Jacob Trouba, and a pleasantly surprisingly tally from Alexander Burmistrov. Still more is required, especially from the team's bottom-six. While basking in the glory of Connor Hellebuyck is easy at the moment, he needs continued run support from the skaters in front of him.
Powerful as a butterfly's roar: Winnipeg currently has the 29th ranked power play in the league, at 14.3%. Only the Calgary Flames are worse with 12.6%, while 28th ranked Philadelphia sports a 16.0% conversion rate (hi @KitKat_P). Ladd's goal against the Detroit Red Wings was nice. I'd like it more if it wasn't the only Jets PP tally in the last five games, a 1 for 13 stretch.
Everybody it's on: The bad news is, Winnipeg doesn't have the fortune of facing a 4 GA, .714 SV% Jimmy Howard again. The good news is, they're playing the Arizona Coyotes.
Mike Smith wasn't exactly king of the world with his .901 SV%, and with surgery now keeping him out till March, Anders Lindback and Louis Domingue have been tasked with filling his rather large and leaky shoes. Lindback has a .893 SV% in 15 GP, Domingue a .915 in 5. The house of cards fell apart yet again Tuesday against Chicago, with Lindback allowing three goals on five shots, and Domingue subsequently letting this stinker get past him:
The point is, Arizona's goaltenders at the moment are bad, unproven, or both (depending on your opinion of Domingue). Shoot the puck early and often.
Keys to the Game: Arizona Coyotes
The Rolling Stone: Remember Michael Stone? He's the defenceman whose complete ineptitude led to Chris 'Scoreburn' Thorburn's shorthanded game-winning goal against Arizona on Nov. 21st. In case you missed it:
Stone has miraculously recovered from this embarrassment, and is currently on pace for 34 points while posting four in his last three games. Not too shabby, but it pales in comparison to one of his other d-corps fellows. Some top-tier defenceman by the name of Oliver Ekman-Larsson is currently on pace for 21 goals and 36 assists. The Arizona d-corps is rightly lambasted, but it's far from completely devoid of talent. The Jets have struggled at times against shots from the point, and Arizona might have a few weapons capable of taking advantage.
Anthony Ducold: Stone and Ekman-Larsson are hot. Anthony Duclair is most certainly not. Amongst a forward corps where Tobias Rieder, Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan have been on fire of late, Duclair has one point in five games since missing a tilt due to illness. He's still on pace for 23 goals and 44 points, and it's easy to forget that this is the 20-year-old's rookie season. He'll snap out of it.
The Dominator: At one point during the summer, it seemed as if Louis Domingue wouldn't even be playing in North America this season. And yet here we are, and he's tonight's confirmed starter. He brings to the table a 2-2-1 record, with his last two games ending in save percentages of .879 and .864. Domingue does not have an abundance of professional success; even his AHL numbers are mediocre at best. With that said, he's still preferable over Anders Lindback. The injury to Mike Smith is opportunity knocking, and now is the time for Domingue to make his case as an NHL goaltender. At least until we trade them Michael Hutchinson.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Shane Doan. Arizona's captain had the gall to score a hat trick (just the second of his very long career) against Chicago Tuesday, tying him with Dale Hawerchuk for the all-time franchise record and suddenly providing opportunity to pass said record against the Winnipeg Jets. It would be rather poetic for Doan to score #380 tonight. Hawerchuk has already wished him luck; I wish for us to boo him mercilessly.
Doan's actions against Winnipeg on Nov. 21st also directly led to this Age of Hellebuyck we currently live in, which I'm sure you're all very upset over.
Tonight will be the tale of two goaltenders. Connor Hellebuyck continues his reign of terror, allowing but a single goal against (scored by Shane Doan of course). Meanwhile, Louis Domingue gives his best Arizona goalie impression.
Jets win 4-1 (unless PoMo does the unthinkable and starts Hutchinson).