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Game #67 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Detroit Red Wings

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Your Winnipeg Jets take on a Detroit Red Wings team flirting with the end of an era. After 24 straight playoff appearances, the spoked wheel's postseason streak is in a rather precarious position.

3-5-2 in their last 10, the Red Wings are clinging onto the 2nd Wild Card spot in the east, with the Philadelphia Flyers nipping at their heels. Philadelphia is two points back with a game in hand, having gone on a run of 7-2-1. A loss tonight would put Detroit behind the eight ball, though the Flyers and Red Wings do face each other twice more before the season's through.

The Jets are coming off a 1-3-1 March homestand, but this is the kind of game even 28th place teams get up in the morning for. While Detroit's elder statesmen and team as a whole aren't what they once were, facing off against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the Joe Louis Arena still has a certain heft to it. It'll be an especially noteworthy night for Ann Arbor native Andrew Copp:

Catch the game tonight, 6:30 PM Central Time on FS-D, TSN3 and TSN 1290.

It's a Numbers Game

Winnipeg Jets

Detroit Red Wings

Record

27-34-5

32-23-11

Division-Conference-League

7th - 13th - 28th

4th - 8th - 15th

Last 10 - Streak

2-6-2 - L2

3-5-2 - L3

Goals For / Game

2.56 (20th)

2.50 (22nd)

Goals Against / Game

2.95 (26th)

2.61 (16th)

Shots For / Game

29.8 (16th)

29.4 (18th)

Shots Against / Game

29.6 (14th)

29.9 (15th)

5v5 Corsi For %

52.0% (9th)

51.3% (12th)

5v5 Shooting %

7.03% (20th)

7.06% (17th)

5v5 SV %

92.17% (23rd)

93.23% (7th)

Power Play %

15.6 (29th)

17.3 (22nd)

Penalty Kill %

78.2 (25th)

80.4 (18th)

PIM / Game

11:59 (27th)

08:28 (7th)

The Detroit Red Wings are a good team with an aging core which has (until recently) been elevated by their goaltending. Among NHL forwards, one has to go through 81 names before finding Detroit's leading scorer in Henrik Zetterberg. Rookie Dylan Larkin is second on the team with 39 points in 64 games, despite just a single point in his last 12. 20th in 5v5 Goals For per 60 and 22nd in PP%, Detroit's firepower is cause for concern.

Luckily for the Red Wings, the Winnipeg Jets haven't proven much better at lighting the lamp. While Winnipeg owns top-ten fancy stats at 5v5, this hasn't translated into a top-tier goalscoring threat. The Jets are currently 17th in 5v5 Goals For per 60, while better only than Toronto on the man advantage. Especially considering Winnipeg's depleted lineup, the Red Wings don't have an overabundance of offensive threats to worry about.

Petr Petr Pumpkin Eater

Michael Hutchinson

Petr Mrazek

Record

7-12-2

24-13-6

Overall SV%

.904%

.924%

ES SV%

.905%

.935%

PP SV%

.897%

.867%

A huge reason for why Detroit has been able to get away with mediocre goalscoring is Petr Mrazek. Among goalies who have played at least 15 games, his even strength save percentage of .935% ranks ninth, ahead of Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick. In terms of overall save percentage, his .924% comes in eighth. The Mrazek ascendancy is now (and it's really something GM Ken Holland should have thought of before signing Jimmy Howard to a six year contract worth $5.29 million per).

With that said, it's been a bumpy few weeks for the Red Wings starter. While escaping February with a 6-2-2 record, it also came along with a save percentage of just .910%. The warning signs of February have become a klaxon in March, with Mrazek allowing seven goals on 38 shots thus far. Considering Jimmy Howard let in four against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Detroit has to hope Mrazek's recent form isn't injury related:

Michael Hutchinson starts for the first time since allowing four goals on 27 shots against the New York Islanders. Even a potentially hobbled Mrazek may give Detroit the advantage in net.

Hole in the Kronwall

Tyler Myers

Niklas Kronwall

Games Played

66

51

Goals - Assists - Points

7-17-24

3-16-19

Power Play Points

2

10

Shooting %

5.4%

6.4%

TOI / Game

22:33

22:42

PP TOI / Game

02:16

02:59

SH TOI / Game

02:11

02:17

5v5 Corsi For RelTM%

-0.0

-2.8%

Penalty Differential

-14

0

Dustin Byfuglien continues to be a light in the darkness. The big man has 18 points in his last 19 tilts, while averaging 28:45 minutes over the last four games. As Winnipeg's death march to the 2016 NHL Entry Draft continues, Buff remains a reason to tune in and watch.

Niklas Kronwall is on pace for 25 points, his lowest total since missing 30 games in 2009-10 with a sprained left MCL. Furthermore, of the 19 points he currently has, 10 have come on the power play. Kronwall has the lowest 5v5 points per 60 of any Detroit defenceman this season, a 0.44 rate which rubs shoulders with the Eric Gryba's and Brayden McNabb's of the world. His fancy stats are mediocre at best, and there are whispers about his footspeed.

If this is age catching up to the 35-year-old, the remaining years of his contract may not be easy to watch.

Steak Tatar

Mark Scheifele

Henrik Zetterberg

Games Played

55

66

Goals - Assists - Points

21-21-42

12-29-41

Power Play Points

7

18

Shooting %

14.3%

7.1%

TOI / Game

17:52

19:33

PP TOI / Game

02:29

03:14

SH TOI / Game

00:17

00:04

5v5 Corsi For RelTM%

+3.2%

-0.7%

Penalty Differential

+8

+6

In a head-to-head, Mark Scheifele actually compares favourably to Henrik Zetterberg. He has one more point in 11 fewer games, 27 of which come at 5v5 versus just 20 for Zetterberg. All this despite playing significantly less time both on the power play and overall.

Since Bryan Little was injured on February 18th, Scheifele has 13 points in nine games. Eight of those 13 have been goals, bringing his 2015-16 shooting percentage up to 14.3%.

It's easy to believe this Sh% will likely come down from its current high, though perhaps not cataclysmically so. While Scheifele's Sh% was 8.8% last season, it was also 13% the year prior. This season, Scheifele has a 5v5 shooting percentage of 13.86%, compared to the 13.48% Bryan Little was rocking.

Speaking of Bryan Little, he himself provides an example of relatively sustainable shooting percentages in the ~13% range: in the last five years, only once has his Sh% dipped below 13.4%. The point being that while Scheifele is benefitting from a nice bit of puck luck at the moment, it would be unwise to expect a complete fall off in production.

Regardless of debate over how much drop-off one should expect from Scheifele's Sh%, he unfortunately can't do it all alone. And when looking at both forward corps, a discrepancy of depth quickly becomes apparent. Let's compare:

Stafford-Scheifele-Wheeler

Perreault-Burmistrov-Dano

Thorburn-Lowry-Kosmachuk

Lipon-Copp-Halischuk

Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Larkin

Tatar-Datsyuk-Athanasiou

Nyquist-Sheahan-Pulkkinen

Helm-Glendening-Richards

Head coach Jeff Blashill has elected to spread the wealth, with speedy rookie Andreas Athanasiou lining up beside Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar. Gustav Nyquist versus Chris Thorburn is a third-line matchup I can't wait to see.

If there's a casual (AKA subjective and lacking in factual backing) observation to be made, it's that Detroit's forward corps seems chock-full of middle-six talent. Justin Abdelkader is a perfectly competent crash and banger, and while Dylan Larkin is great, it's a tough ask for him to be a consistent first liner at 19 years of age. Nyquist and Tatar are mighty fine players, but have yet to be utilized as more than top-tier second liners. Zetterberg is fading, Pulkkinen remains an unknown and Sheahan's offensive upside is questionable at best.

Pavel Datsyuk is a delight and treasure, but his most frequent 5v5 linemates have been Darren Helm and Brad Richards. Frankly, it's a small wonder he's managed 37 points.

Not everyone who plays on a team's top-line has to be a bonafide, unquestioned first line talent. But as Datsyuk and Zetterberg move ever-closer to retirement, it'll be interesting to see who's able to fill the void.

KTV: Winnipeg Jets

Key:

Andrew Copp's ice time is up over the last six games, but he's still only cracked the 10:00 mark three times this season. Let's see what the Michigan kid can do in front of his family and friends. Increased ice time is also on the wish list for Marko Dano and Scott Kosmachuk, with special emphasis on the power play for both. Putting players in opportunities to succeed and all that jazz.

On the flip-side, rein in Dustin Byfuglien's copious amounts of TOI. Paul Postma is going to be in the lineup, whether you like it or not. Use him for crying out loud.

Tweet:

Video:

While the game ended in a 4-2 loss, Winnipeg at least got off to a decent start against Nashville on Tuesday. Considering Mrazek's recent play, getting one past him early could set the tone for his entire performance.

KTV: Detroit Red Wings

Key:

Play Brendan Smith and Mike Green more, while deploying Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson less. Fire Kyle Quincey into the sun. Draft Jake Bean.

Tweet:

If you want an absolutely brilliant breakdown of what Mike Babcock did to mask the deficiencies of Detroit's d-corps, and how Jeff Blashill's systems changes have served to expose those flaws, read this article.

Video:

Sunday was an especially ugly outing for Mrazek, who lasted all of 6:19 before being pulled. After allowing two goals on five shots, he'll be looking to bounce back tonight.

Affection or Affliction

Affection. Pavel Datsyuk is a future Hall of Famer, and has dazzled us with his skill and hockey IQ for over 1000 NHL games (regular season + playoffs). He's an Unrestricted Free Agent after next season, and while the door would certainly be open for his return to Detroit, it's not an absolute certainty. Shower Datsyuk with praise and adoration, while we still have him.

According to Nostradamus

Mrazek's woes continue. Winnipeg scores two in the 1st period, plus an ugly one late in the 2nd. Jimmy Howard comes out to begin the 3rd and the Detroit Red Wings make things interesting, but the Jets ice this one with an empty-netter.

Jets win 4-2.

Stats, facts and automobiles provided by NHL.com, Natural Stat Trick, WAR On Ice, Hockey Analysis, Hockey Reference and The Hockey News.