The Winnipeg Jets appear to have their game going well again. They've been playing "keep away" with their opponents, brilliantly possessing the puck like an older brother in a game of shinny. They've outshot their opponents in each of their last 4 games - including Nashville and Detroit - by an average of 38 to 27.
But the Jets have two ghosts haunting them:
- Their penalty kill - once one of the league's best - has floundered lately, allowing 6 power play goals in 15 attempts over the last 3 games.
- Their goaltending - an advantage earlier in the season - has been sub .900 lately. Not good enough for a team that wants to make the playoffs.
If the Jets want to win against Washington tonight, they're going to have to be better in these two areas. The same prescription applies for their hopes to clinch their first playoff spot in jets 2.0 history.
Jets injury update - Mathieu Perreault (for the remainder of the regular season); Drew Stafford - game time decision. Carl Klingberg will likely play. Jay Harrison might play if Stafford can't.
Game time is 6:00 PM central time. TV - TSN3. Radio - 1290 AM.
Keys to the game
- Stay out of the penalty box. Yes, we know that the Jets want to play aggressively. However, they need to be aware of what they're doing with their sticks, when chasing opposition players. Any sticks near the skates or the hands are going to make those zebra's stretch their arms. We've seen this movie before. We know how it ends. It won't be any better facing the league's second best power play (23.6%). Sure, Alex Ovechkin has 37 goals, but almost half are on the power play (17). If the Jets are going to win, they must avoid cheap, easy penalties. Make the referees work for their quotas.
- Play their game. It's worked for most of this season, including the last four games. Washington has improved their puck possession, including better defensive zone breakouts, and are 13th in the league for team Corsi (51.2% 5 on 5). But, amazingly, the Jets are the 6th best team in the NHL at shinny, at 52.8% Corsi (5 on 5). Stay out of the box. Play keepaway.
- The Jets need both of their goalies to return to their form, pre-all-star game. Yes, I know, they've played some good teams lately, but there aren't many pushovers in the NHL these days. It seems to me that both Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec have let their games slip a little in the last 3 weeks. They both need to be better.
- The Caps need to do what's worked for them - beat the Jets at their own game, with good defensive zone breakouts, keeping the puck through the zones. If the Capitals make the Jets chase them, they are more likely to draw penalties.
- Feed Ovechkin. Great 8 is having a truly great year.
- Score first. The Jets have been a successful road team for much of this season, scoring early and often. The Jets are a great first period team. The Capitals have to work hard early to avoid this. They need to make the Jets chase them on the scoreboard, as well as on the ice.
Player to boo mercilessly
Ovi. He's just too good. A few years ago, fans wondered whether he'd lost his game. He's still got it, folks.
The Jets win 5-4 in overtime. They will get into trouble with penalties, and Washington will score 2 power play goals. But the Jets will show that same resiliency that resulted in comeback victories over Detroit and Edmonton.