The Winnipeg Jets took care of business last night in Edmonton with a 4-1 win, and now head to Vancouver, where they'll try to hit the 90-point plateau. A win would move them two points up on the Canucks, and help them nail down at least 8th in the West. To secure their first playoff birth, they'll need to stay ahead of (one of) Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, or Minnesota - which is easier said than done, given that each team has a record of 6-3-1 or better in their past 10 games.
(1) They say there's no rest for the wicked, and after reeling off 5 straight victories, and being named the NHL's 1st star of the week, there's no doubt that Ondrej Pavelec's play has been fantastic. Is the sample size small? Yes. Is there any indication that this brief stretch represents a long-term improvement? Absolutely not. But Pavelec has been a key ingredient in helping the Jets claim 10 huge points in the past 10 days, and if the Jets make the playoffs, all the naysayers - myself included - owe him a Christmas card.
(2) When Kevin Cheveldayoff's trade with the Buffalo Sabres was cemented on the morning of February 11, the popular sentiment was that the deal was a temporary fix in the short-run, given that Evander Kane was hurt for the remainder of the season, and good for the Jets in the long-term. However, the mid-term was seen as somewhat of a wash. Fast forward 6 weeks - let me know if you can find a sole who doesn't sees this deal as a win from all sides. (Bogosian-loving, teenage girls aside, of course). Myers has 11 points in 16 games, along with a +8 rating, while Stafford has 7 goals and 14 points in 17 games. If it were only that, we'd say "wow, that's great", but the stat line alone doesn't tell the full story, as it's the timing of those goals and assists that has been the true mark of success. His first big performance was on the road in Detroit, where he scored a goal in regulation, plus another in the shoot-out; with the season potentially in the balance, he scored the tying goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a gigantic 2-1 road win; then, he scored the tying goal against St. Louis in that incredible game at MTS Centre on Tuesday, and most recently, he scored the game's first goal last night against Edmonton. Meanwhile, Myers has been a horse, averaging around 25 minutes per night the past 4 games, and contributing to the attack almost every night. He scored a huge goal against Los Angeles a few weeks back on a great play at the blueline, where he faked, walked around the left winger, and sniped on Jonathan Quick. He also helped shut down Alexander Ovechkin in a 3-0 win over Washington, and has been noticeable in almost every game, usually in a very positive way. If the Jets can retain Stafford in the off-season, and get similar contributions next season from these two, the trade will be a huge win regardless of what the prospects/pick do. Christmas card coming your way, Chevy.
(3) How many points do the Jets need in order to make the playoffs? Given that 9th place Los Angeles has 84 points, and 10 games remaining, My guess is 96 or 97. In the past five (full) seasons, here's how many points it took to earn 8th place in the Western Conference:
2014 - 91
2012 - 95
2011 - 97
2010 - 95
2009 - 91
(1) Here's an interesting stat - Vancouver has scored just as many goals this season as the Chicago Blackhawks - 206. The question is, how? (Seriously, there has to be a mistake). The top line would be an obvious answer - we all know the Sedin twins, and Radim Vrbata has been an underrated sniper for many years now - but that line has only accounted for 59 goals. Where are they hiding the rest? Wasn't the Kesler trade supposed to decimate their forward depth, particularly at centre ice? Don't tell that to Nick Bonino, Shawn Matthias, and Bo Horvat, who have combined for 43 goals, and given the Canucks the type of depth down the middle which they lacked even at their peak in 2011. (You tried to beat Boston with Lapierre, and Malhotra / freshman Cody Hodgson in your bottom-6? Hmmm). Horvat in particular has been a revelation, scoring 13 goals in 58 games, all while playing a 4th line role, as a 19-year-old freshman. Who knew he'd be this effective so early in his career? Pas moi.
(2) What does Eddie Lack? Of late, the answer has been, absolutely nothing. Forgive the pun, but Lack has held the fort nicely since the injury to Canuck's starter Ryan Miller, holding the opposition to a single goal in four of the past six starts. Furthermore, his goals against and save percentage are actually better than Miller's on the season. Here's hoping that his inexperience - 74 career games - and intense workload - 12 straight games started between Feb. 24 and March 22 - will give the Jets' shooters an edge.
(3) Row row, row your boat - the NHL's first tie breaker - regulation and overtime losses, could end up saving the Canucks' playoff hopes if this race gets any tighter. With 38 ROW's, they sit tied with Minnesota, 2 ahead of Calgary, 5 ahead of Los Angeles, and 7 ahead of the Jets. They also have a game in hand over all but LA. Nothing is guaranteed, but the Canucks are well positioned - chances are that they'd sneak in just by staying a hair above .500 in their final 10 games.
Player to boo mercilessly
Hank/Danny Sedin. Still on pace for 70 points, and this in their mid-30's.
4-2 Jets, Tlusty scores an important goal - his first as a Jet.