Since the All-Star Game, The Winnipeg Jets have alternated between their two personalities this year - the superior puck possession team that overwhelms the opposition (the Jets are the 7th best Corsi% in the NHL), and the team that occasionally seems to require spectacular performances from their goaltender (like Ondrej Pavelec's "steal" in Dallas). Every time they raise our hopes by stringing together some great games, they lose their momentum with a thud.
It says here that this is the next test for this maturing team - to make the spaces between those thuds longer and longer; to string together so many good performances in a row down this stretch run that they build their confidence.
Admittedly, they're in tough tonight against a very good hockey team, the Blues. The Jets are missing several of their top players, including longer term injuries to Mathieu Perreault and Ben Chiarot, as well as a short term injury to Blake Wheeler.
Keys to the Game
- Are the Jets the Dr. Jekyll that took only 3 minor penalties against Dallas, or the Mr. Hyde that is the most penalized team in the NHL? If they give up power plays like they did against Washington, they might be singing the Blues' praise, since the Blues' power play is ranked as 4th best in the NHL.
- Will the "Kladno Konnection" strike gold tonight? New Jet Jiri Tlusty hails from the same part of the Czech republic as Jets Michael Frolik and Ondrej Pavelec. Tlusty brings some offensive skill, as well as some responsible defensive play. Will he provide a momentum boost for the Jets tonight?
- My impression from Tuesday's game against Dallas is that the team banded together to overcome adversity, with Wheeler's injury. The team raised their game, with some outstanding efforts by Adam Lowry, Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien. This race to the finish for playoff spots is what we fans been hoping for. Can the team find that extra gear to power through the loss of Perreault (regular season) and Wheeler (short-term), like they did against Dallas this week? Can they make it a habit for the "home stretch" this season?
St. Luis Blues
- The Blues have an amazing group of forwards on their top 3 lines. There aren't any weaknesses there. To be successful against the Jets, they need to bring their "A game" early. The Jets are most effective when they get a power surge at the start of a game. The Blues need to get a good start to counteract that.
- Be physical. The Jets have lost some of their "mean streak" with the departure of Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. If the Blues can find an edge there, it could help them tonight.
- Do what they do best. The Blues are widely regarded as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this year. Don't mess with success.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Jay Bouwmeester. Let's try to get one of their defensemen off his game.
This is a tough one. The Blues really are one of the premier NHL teams, and we're missing a couple of our best forwards. But I'm going out on a limb and predicting a gutsy Jets victory in overtime, 3-2.