Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Winnipeg hockey fans had some options this year if they wanted to watch a good team play, with the Manitoba Moose (37-20-4-2) currently holding onto 5th in the AHL and the Winnipeg Ice (49-10-3-2) in the top spot in the WHL. However, most of our attention is on the city's NHL team and they clearly haven't lived up to expectations, with the Winnipeg Jets sitting in 19th place with a 33-28-10 record.
The Winnipeg Ice's great season has put both Matthew Savoie (C) and Connor Geekie (C) on the radar as possible top 10 selections in the upcoming NHL entry draft.
The Manitoba Moose have gained the top echelons of the AHL by playing a complete, defensively responsible team game this year. They have been helped by a solid defensive core and good goaltending, but it was the old cliches of "never stop playing your game" & "next man up" that really helped them outperform expectations. I know some of us talk about the importance of rolling 4 lines, well with all the NHL call-ups, Covid protocols, and injuries, Manitoba has probably rolled 6 or 7 lines this year. With no player near the top 100 in AHL scoring, the Moose relied on pretty much everyone (20 players with .46 pts/game or better).
Okay, enough of that & let's move onto tonight's game....
GAME PREVIEW: Colorado Avalanche (50-14-6) @ Winnipeg Jets (33-28-10)
With the Avalanche chasing the #1 spot in the NHL and the Jets having a 0.2% chance (according to MoneyPuck) of making the playoffs, this game doesn't appear to promise an exciting game, but you never know...
Winnipeg have only one player (Kyle Connor) with 80+ pts, while Colorado have two (Mikko Rantanen & Nazem Kadri). The Avalanche also have two more players (Cale Makar & Nathan MacKinnon) with 70+ pts, yet the Jets' next leading scorer is Mark Scheifele with 66 pts. In the 50 pt range, Colorado continues to dominate with 3 players (Gabriel Landeskog, Devon Toews, & Andre Burakovsky) to Winnipeg's two (Blake Wheeler & Pierre Luc Dubois).
The Avalanche have 13 players with 20+ pts, while the Jets only have 10, but the teams are equal with 17 players with 10+ pts.
Colorado will be starting Pavel Francouz (13-3-1/2.50 GAA/.918 save %) in net tonight and Connor Hellebuyck (25-25-9/2.91 GAA/.912 save %) will get his 60th start of the season. Winnipeg will be without Wheeler and Logan Stanley, so Adam Brooks and Dylan Samberg will take their places.
Jets Projected LineUp:
Avalanche Projected LineUp:
Not really expecting much tonight from Winnipeg and have a fallback option, the Manitoba Moose game, if things go awry quickly. Looking forward to seeing Samberg play & hope he shows he belongs in the lineup next season to whoever is in charge, as he probably is the Jets' defense prospect I would least like to see traded.
Manitoba is set to play the Milwaukee Admirals tonight and they will put newly re-assigned Ville Heinola on the 1st defensive pairing with Johnny Kovacevic. Mikhail Berdin won his first 2 games since coming back from injury, but will be backing up Evan Cormier tonight (likely saving Berdin for tomorrow's game versus the Chicago Wolves).