Tonight the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals will go toe-to-toe in a divisional match-up in which one of these two teams will register their first win of the year.
For the Jets, it's been another slow start to the season as they dropped their home opener to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, then following it up with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins yesterday afternoon.
On the plus side, Winnipeg's performance in Boston was infinitely better than what they showed their home fans at the MTS Centre this past weekend. Their legs looked more lively, the passing much more crisp and, despite multiple surges from the Bruins, Ondrej Pavelec and his eighteen teammates answered Boston's repeated offensive attacks.
The bad news for the Jets and their fans is the team was abhorrent in the second half of back-to-backs last year, a league worst 1-11-1. While we all hope that last year's success -- or lack thereof -- is a distant memory, if 2011-12 results do turn out to be an indication on what we may come, it will be a few more days before the Jets secure their first victory.
There is room for optimism as Washington was absolutely brutal Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning in what was a one-sided 6-3 loss. Their penalty kill was torched to the tune of three goals against. Braden Holtby allowed six in total. And despite logging more than 23 minutes in TOI, Alex Ovechkin was incapable of registering a single point.
It's very much anyone's guess as to how tonight's game will play out, but one would have to give a slight pre-game advantage to a home team who hasn't played since Saturday, rather than the visiting opponent playing their third game in the past four days, especially considering some of the conditioning issues caused by the NHL lockout.
Keys to the Game:
- Breaking the habit: Two games in and the Jets' only have two goals to their credit. Not for lack of effort, but Winnipeg will have to start capitalizing on their opportunities should they wish to leave Washington with two points in their pocket.
- Bottling up the Caps: Last year, the Jets were able to take four of six games from the Capitals in regular season play. That said, Winnipeg was unable to contain Alexander Ovechkin who scored four goals and added two assists in those games. With the addition of Mike Ribeiro to Washington's line-up, Claude Noel will have to do his best to keep Paul Postma and Grant Clitsome playing sheltered minutes.
- Terrible turnovers: It seems like every time the Jets' gaffe and turn the puck over, it ends up costing them in the goals against department. Ron Hainsey was exposed Saturday and on Monday it was Andrew Ladd who essentially provided the secondary assist on Boston's only regulation goal. For a team that is lacking its defensive depth without the services of Zach Bogosian, it's imperative the Jets make the simple plays and avoid turning the puck over in their own end.
- Lost and Found: A year after being traded to Winnipeg for Danick Paquette and a fourth round draft pick, Eric Fehr finds his way back on Washington's third line after a solid stint in the SM-liiga. How much will he factor into tonight's storyline? Ed. Note: Eric Fehr will be scratched from tonight's line-up.
- Return of the Poti: It had been a long time since Tom Poti suited up in an NHL game before his 2013 debut on Saturday. Poti -- whose reoccurring groin injuries kept him on Long Term Injured Reverse for all of 2011-12 -- was back patrolling the Caps' blue line and he didn't look out of place, marking an assist in their 6-3 loss.
- Heroic Holtby: Things have gotten off to a rough start for Washington's sophomore goalie after an impressive 2012 post-season run in which he registered a pristine 1.95 GAA and .935 SV%. Was last year just a mirage or is the Lloydminster, SK native the real deal?
Player to boo mercilessly:
Alexander Ovechkin, because it's just too easy.
Washington Capitals 4
Winnipeg Jets 2 - F