Time: 9:30 CT
Radio: TSN 1290
Resilient. Cursed. Unlucky. Scrappy. All words that aptly describe the Winnipeg Jets current state, and essentially their 2019-20 season. As of early Thursday morning the predicament for the team seems to be to face an elimination game missing their best forward Mark Scheifele; the secret-sauce for their power play, Patrik Laine; and two key bottom six forwards, Mason Appleton and Mathieu Perreault. I’m not one to lean on injuries as an excuse for teams, but, this is a bit much for any team to weather. Particularly a team that even at full compliment needed to elevate their game and have Connor Hellebuyck essentially steal a game or two to advance to the next round.
Given the added security on players’ injury status in the bubble, we likely won’t know until the pre-game skate whether any of the injured Jets will pull a Bobby Baun and unexpectedly make an appearance. Keys for the Jets? Better special teams play is a must; Hellebuyck must play like the best goalie in the NHL tonight; Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler must generate some offense; and just keep plugging away.
On the plus side we’ve seen the emergence of Jansen Harkins who looks to have cemented a job as a bottom six NHL forward; Adam Lowry has discovered a bit of a scoring touch; Tucker Poolman responded to a brutal puck in the face better than I responded to a moderately stubbed toe today; and Dylan Demelo’s solid play continues to raise the question, “what was Ottawa thinking”?
The good news is the Flames are not 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. This is a team with flaws and a talent level basically on par with the Jets, were they at full compliment. Many of these Jets have faced playoff elimination games and adversity in the past. It’s time to draw upon that and extend the series.