Fresh off the Heritage Classic's disappointing 3-0 loss, the Winnipeg Jets return to the humdrum of regular games during the regular season. With the outdoor tilt's pomp and circumstance behind them, it's time for Winnipeg to bring their lunch pail from here on out, beginning tonight with the Dallas Stars.
There have been exciting moments, and a 2-3-0 record is hardly a death knell, but to say the Jets have room for improvement is putting it mildly. Edmonton's three goals on Sunday were the fewest Winnipeg has allowed all season, with opponents scoring four goals in each of the four games prior. While scoring is up across the league, Winnipeg's numbers probably aren't conducive to success.
The Jets haven’t been playing great hockey in 2016-17, full stop. The team's 5v5 possession numbers are mediocre, and they also own both the 26th ranked power play and 29th ranked penalty kill. Point production is somewhat limited beyond Winnipeg's top-line, and while goaltenders across the league have had a rough early go, it would be nice if at least one of Michael Hutchinson or Connor Hellebuyck weren't contributing to that particular trend (in all of their two and three games played, respectively).
Perhaps most horrifying of all, tonight might feature a Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot third pairing, which may be the worst d-corps idea not involving Brian Strait. As per Corsica.Hockey, here were Chiarot's 5v5 pairing numbers in 2015-16:
The 42.26 Corsi For% is not a mark of pride. One hopes against hope the duo won't be quite so buried by Dallas tonight.
On the topic of secondary scoring, while players such as Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault may yet come alive, it's becoming easy to miss Bryan Little. The last three seasons have seen the 28-year-old score 158 points, including 42 points over 57 games in 2015-16. Though Little was questionable as a 1C, Scheifele’s emergence meant he slotted quite nicely into the second line pivot role. Until some of the kids are ready to step up in a year or three (or the Jets draft Nolan Patrick), Little's absence is an impactful one.
After making a strong preseason impression, Kyle Connor seems to have faded. Whether he'll adjust and rebound or require an AHL stint remains to be seen, but it'll be interesting to watch what Winnipeg's approach will be this year.
#NHLJets HC Paul Maurice on sitting out Kyle Connor: "I didn't take him out over the turnover – or I'd have to take three guys out." (1/3)— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeSunSports) October 25, 2016
The good news is, we're five games in. The Winnipeg Jets still have time to find their footing and congeal into something better than what fans have seen thus far. Which is good, because middling possession, wretched special teams, questionable goaltending and a lack of secondary scoring would be a tough mix to overcome in any division, much less the central.
Tonight's opponent are the 2-2-1 Dallas Stars, who I presume at this point have an official partnership with Baylor University Medical Center. While Patrick Eaves seems set to return from injury, the Stars are still missing Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler, Patrick Sharp, Cody Eakin and Mattias Janmark. The result is a Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Adam Cracknell third line, and a fourth trio which includes Justin Dowling and Gemel Smith. Dowling and Smith may be completely deserving recalls and lovely human beings to boot, but their being on the roster is a testament to Dallas' bumps, bruises and osteochondritis dissecans.
If there's an injury silver lining, it's that the d-corps is unscathed. This means the rotating cast of blueline characters continues, with Stephen Johns coming out in favour of Esa Lindell and joining Jamie Oleksiak in the press box.
Lindy Ruff quote on juggling his defense: pic.twitter.com/lRynd0Y112— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) October 25, 2016
The Stars' goalie rotation means Winnipeg will face Antti Niemi tonight, who for the moment is Dallas' lesser option in their nightmare tandem of doom. Niemi will be looking to redeem himself after his last outing, a five goals against effort versus the Avs on Oct. 15. Speaking of redemption, Dallas has been sitting on a listless 3-0 loss of their own since Saturday, when they fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dallas will need to at least tread water (and probably a little bit better) while waiting for some of their big and mid-sized guns to return. On the flip side, the Stars' injury woes help provide further opportunity for Winnipeg to both right the ship and keep a divisional rival down. #GoJetsGo
When, Where & How
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. CT, American Airlines Center
TV: FS-SW, TSN3
Radio: TSN 1290, Sportsradio 1310 AM, 96.7 FM The Ticket
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Patrik Laine||Mark Scheifele||Blake Wheeler|
|Nikolaj Ehlers||Mathieu Perreault||Drew Stafford|
|Shawn Matthias||Adam Lowry||Joel Armia|
|Brandon Tanev||Alexander Burmistrov||Chris Thorburn|
|Josh Morrissey||Dustin Byfuglien|
|Tobias Enstrom||Tyler Myers|
|Mark Stuart||Ben Chiarot|
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
||Tyler Seguin||Patrick Eaves|
|Antoine Roussel||Radek Faksa||Brett Ritchie|
|Lauri Korpikoski||Devin Shore||Adam Cracknell|
|Curtis McKenzie||Justin Dowling||Gemel Smith|
|Patrik Nemeth||John Klingberg|
|Dan Hamhuis||Esa Lindell|
|Johnny Oduya||Jordie Benn|