RECORDS: Jets 22-25-4 Hawks 30-15-5
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm Central
FOR WE’VE GOT NOWHERE TO BE: Arctic Ice Hockey
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Jets – 49.2 (20th) Hawks – 50.0 (16th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Jets – 50.6 (14th) Hawks – 47.5 (25th)
POWER PLAY %: Jets – 17.7 (17th) Hawks – 17.6 (18th)
PENALTY KILL %: Jets – 76.8 (27th) Hawks – 75.8 (28th)
Interesting position the Hawks find themselves in here. Having won three of four, and with the break right on the heels of this one tonight, you wouldn’t be surprised if they played this one with sunglasses on and Bermuda shorts underneath their pants (I assume this is how Panarin has been playing the last month). On the other, the Hawks are coming off a bad loss on Tuesday, losing in regulation when leading after 40 for the first time since Daley was in charge or some shit (no, not Trevor, moron). Backing that up with an in-division loss would certainly put a small pall (see what I did there?) over the vacation time. But then again, this is still a game in January. So you tell us.
Let’s start with the Hawks, as there’s a couple things going on for once. One, Marcus Kruger looks poised to return to the lineup tonight, causing a small line shuffle. We’ve come full circle everyone. Kruger will be centering Hossa and Nick Schmaltz, so apparently the experiment with him at center is over after seven minutes, which is where we began this season. Toews will stick between Hartmania and Wiener Anxiety. You would think Kruger and Hossa together would be what you would throw at either Little’s or Scheifele’s line, but then what exactly is Schmaltz doing there? This will probably chance somewhere in the 2nd.
Secondly, Scott Darling will get the start. And he probably should. Crawford wasn’t bad on Tuesday, and his defense let Tyler Johnson get into close range to win the game. But Darling has earned more than the second of back-to-backs, and Crow could use a full out break (though he has to play in the what-have-ya in LA this weekend). Another sterling performance from Darling tonight will probably see starts split on the road trip after the break, and you know where that could go.
Everything else remains the same, much like the song.
Now to the Jets, who in Gary Bettman’s Everyone’s Special standings system are three games under .500 but only four points out of a wild card spot. The Western Conference everyone, IT’S FAN-TASTIC! The Jets problems lie where they always have, except at least this time they’ve admitted it. Connor Hellebuyck hasn’t been up to the NHL challenge in his first full season. Michael Hutchinson doesn’t have enough time for all that he wants, and he doesn’t have enough glove, to stop all the pucks he wants either. They’ve even resorted to calling back up Ondrej Pavelec, who single-handedly buried this organization for three years or so before he got buried in the AHL. Hellebuyck gets the call tonight.
All of it has led to The Sword Of Damocles to dangle over Paul Maurice’s head, but it’s anyone’s guess what a coach can do when his goalies can’t stop a fucking tumbleweed. The Jets peripherals aren’t bad, there’s certainly no shortage of talent as at least the top six would be the envy of a lot of teams. Seriously, which top six would you rather have, the Wild’s or the Jets’? Dustin Byfuglien is a nonchalant, mutated bunt cake but he at least creates chances and scores. Trouba and Enstrom doing the heavy lifting is not the worst place to be, though Enstrom’s mileage is starting to show. Ok, the bottom six needs help and so does the their pairing, but so does pretty much every team’s.
The Jets have been a nightmare for the Hawks the past few seasons, and they’ve already taken three from the Hawks this season. While the Hawks won four of five last year, they lost all five the year before. So that’s a 4-9 record over three years. And no matter how bad the Jets’ goaltending has been, the Hawks have two goals in three games against them. The problems are obvious. The Jets are much bigger than the Hawks, and at least at the top of the roster the Hawks don’t have much of a speed advantage. So they can’t pressure them on the backcheck enough to matter, because Little, Scheifele, Wheeler, Laine, and whoever else play at that pace anyway. Their defense can’t escape being missile’d into the boards by those Frost Giants. Once the Jets get a cycle going in the Hawks zone, there isn’t a lot the Hawks can do.
Still, it’s the Jets. Their goaltending sucks. You don’t need to outshoot or outpossess the Jets to beat them. And with a nasty looking road trip after the festivities, putting up two losses before it would be unsightly.