Hockey

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RECORDS: Hawks 26-24-8   Jets 29-25-5

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

SEARCHING FOR AN AIRPORT: Jets Nation

In the brilliant scheduling genius of the NHL, the Hawks will spend a second consecutive Sunday in Winnipeg, after having to bus in from Calgary last night because y’know, there’s no airport in Winnipeg. Once again, as they’ve seemingly done a dozen times this season and a dozen times last season, after last night’s win the Hawks have a chance to keep their season afloat with a win tonight.

It’s getting tiresome of course. We know what this team is, and what they probably need to do, but the longer they stay in the race the more justification they’ll have to kind of just float there, without making aggressive moves to bolster next year which should be the real goal here. A win would see the Hawks be within one point of the Jets, and four points within the Coyotes in the last spot with two games in hand. There’s a light week ahead with just two games at home against the Rangers and Predators, before what looks to be a killer roadtrip to close out February.

And we know how this goes. The Hawks probably can’t string together enough losses to fall out of it, due to both their own individual brilliance at the top of the roster and the Western Conference’s inability to not become a Cluseau-esque waiter. Which means three wins in a row are always around the corner to keep them right on the cusp, and then three losses right behind that to look over the edge of the precipice without going over. So it goes.

In the week since the Hawks were last here, the Jets biffed home games against the Rangers and Sharks, and deservedly so. Which somehow got Paul Maurice a contract-extension. This team has hated Maurice for two seasons at least, continues to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league and a good portion of that is because they simply don’t care to be anything else. But when they actually can be bothered, as they were for the last 40 minutes last week, they can still blow just about any team out of the building. Much like the Hawks, you can bet on them to keep yo-yoing between getting into the playoffs and ending their season without making a decision either way.

The Jets are still injured, with Lowry and Perreault still out and Letestu and Little long time casualties. That’s eroded something of their depth, which has led them to lean heavily on the top six and Andrew Copp and Jack Roslovic. There’s been some talk of shifting Blay Kweeler back to wing and Copp to 2C, and they’ll try both looks tonight you can be sure. They tore the Hawks asunder last week either way.

It’s been a pretty horrific roadie for the Hawks, and winning tonight will at least give them cover for not doing much at the trade deadline. They can argue they were robbed in Vancouver and lucky in Calgary somewhat, though eight goals is eight goals. They can say they split with the Jets, which is about what you’d expect from two games in a week against the same opponent. So the only blip, in their minds, will be losing to EdMo without McDavid. It’s the lowest hurdle to clear, but it’ll be enough for them.

We’re in this together.

Hockey

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RECORDS: Hawks 25-21-8   Jets 28-23-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

QUEEN ELIZABETH IN THEIR LIVING ROOM: Jetsnation.ca

It’s at points like these that you can understand Jonathan Toews’s frustration with the schedule of the NHL. There’s no logical reason that instead of spending consecutive Sundays in Winnipeg, with having to swing out to Western Canada in between, the Hawks and Jets couldn’t play just two consecutive games against each other and keep everyone more comfortable. But that’s not the world we have, so the Hawks will begin and end this vital road trip in Winnipeg. It’s even more of a bitch because you have to bus in every time, because they don’t have an airport as you know.

However it’s laid out, the Hawks can shape the rest of their season with this trip, both good and bad. The Hawks enter tonight three points back of the last wildcard, but with three teams to leap to get there. But the next five games are all against teams around them. Even if the Oilers and Canucks are a bit separated, it’s not hard to see how either or both could slip right into range over the coming weeks. Given how the Pacific can’t seem to stop stepping on a rake this season, any and all combinations out of there are possible.

The Jets come in having beat the Senators yesterday at home, and have also clubbed the Blues twice in the last week while also taking the Predators or OT. They’re three points ahead of the Hawks, but have played two games more. So you can see why this is a pretty big game for the Hawks. It’s your customary four-pointer.

The story remains the same with the Jets. They are woeful structurally, and do their best to try and outshoot and outscore it with their wealth of top line talent. It’s been harder for them this season, as the defense has been truly wretched with the departures of Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien. They haven’t been helped by injuries, but through the combo of that and general helplessness they’ve played 10 different guys. Morrissey and Pionk have been the only constants, and the only ones they can even dream of counting on.

Connor Hellebuyck has combined with their top tier scoring to keep them afloat, with a SV% of .920 while being under siege most nights. He didn’t start yesterday so he was saved for the Hawks, which makes you think the Jets think they need this one badly too.

As for the Hawks, they’ll be something of a lineup shuffle, at least as much as there’s been of late. Adam Boqvist will be given a little more time to heal his shoulder made of cardboard, so Nick Seeler will make his Hawks debut. Don’t expect much, and if you get a game where you barely notice him, so much the better. He’s slow, he had a tendency to be dumb, so this might be Connor Murphy’s biggest project of the season. They’ll be paired together tonight. Matthew Highmore will also come back in for Alex Nylander on the fourth line.

Three points is a bigger gap than it sounds in this everybody-gets-a-trophy NHL, but it’s also not insurmountable. The Hawks have to not get buried on this trip. 3-2 is probably the minimum they need, though 2-2-1 probably won’t kill them. But none of these teams on the schedule are monsters. The Hawks have already beaten the Jets twice, and soundly, and outplayed them for long stretches of their OT loss to them. The Oilers, Canucks, and Flames can all lay an egg on any given night, and the Hawks have wins against them this season.

This is supposed to be where it gets fun. The Hawks can make it so.

Hockey

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Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
Winnipeg Nights: Arctic Ice Hockey, Jets Nation

Similar to The Gambler’s Fallacy (of being “due”), when a team is mediocre-to-bad, nearly every game represents the potential for turning things around. The periphery of the playoff picture in the NHL is the very definition of the bare minimum of competence as far as sports are concerned, and the Hawks have once again put together a handful of wins against a cornucopia of teams somehow even worse than they are, and one win last night against a supposed contender, albeit one whose number they seem to have and has a blue line beset by injuries. So naturally that sets them up for a divisional matchup against the visiting Jets tonight where they could creep even closer to a wild card spot in the proverbial four-point game, the type of game they have found stunningly impressive ways to shit themselves in under Coach Cool Youth Pastor in the past season and a half.

Hockey

We will also accept the name “Suspenders” Hellebuyck, as he’s the only thing keeping the Jets from getting pantsed most nights.

You wouldn’t think a team would miss Dustin Byfuglien defensively, if at all. Generally not having to commit 20 minutes a night to a player who kind of wandered around the ice like he was looking for a pair of shoes he lost long ago would be a good thing. If you could replace him by focused players on either end of the ice. The Jets have not done that, as they also punted Jacob Trouba and Ben Chiarot, which was basically strip mining their blue line.

And the results have been awful. The Jets are bottom-five in shots against per 60 minutes at evens, and they’re just a shred ahead of the Hawks in expected goals against, which is third-worst in the league. Up and down the lineup, you’ll see that most of their roster is drowning when it comes to xG%. They give up far too many chances.

But they’re still in the playoff hunt thanks to Hellebuyck. He’s got the biggest difference between his actual save-percentage at evens and his expected-one, at least among starters. He’s ahead of Robin Lehner and Tuukka Rask. He’s the only thing keeping the Jets in it most nights, because they could easily be giving up five a night.

Of course, the Jets hopes might rest on whether they can get him a rest at any point. Backup Laurent Brossoit has been terrible when he’s been healthy, which has meant that Hellebuyck leads the league in games played at 40. And considering the Jets are still outside the playoff picture, they can’t trust Brossoit with too many more starts from here on out either.

Hellebuyck might be built for it. He’s played over 60 games the past two years, and two seasons ago led the league in appearances with 67. He backed that up with a .922 in the playoffs, so fatigue wasn’t a problem then. Last year he played 63 times, and had a .924 in March followed by an acceptable .913 in the playoffs. Still, you might wonder how many times the Jets want to keep pushing this button.

If there’s been a bugaboo, it’s that he’s had his issues on the kill. He ranks 24th among goalies on the kill that have played 25 games, and the Jets have one of the worst kills in the league. He’s behind his expected save-percentage down a man, but again, the Jets give up amongst the most chances on the kill in the league. He’s not getting a lot of help.

Hellebuyck holds more than just the Jets playoff chances in his hands. If he can’t boost them into the postseason, there would have to be major changes in The Peg. This is a team built to compete, not barely scratch in or out of the playoffs. There’s not a lot of cap room, and their coach probably needed to be fired a year ago. The defense could be overhauled, as only Morrissey and Pionk are signed for next year. One wonders if Laine would be moved along with only one year on his contract and not exactly proving himself to be the world class sniper he once flashed and before he demands to be paid like one. Would Chevyldayoff survive a playoff-less season?

The Jets have put an awful lot on Hellebuyck. He’s been up to the challenge so far with no support. But how much more can they ask?

Hockey

Not every team has crossed the 41-game threshold yet, but it’s close enough for disco. For any newbies, I like to go through the major NHL awards and decide by my own parameters who should win but probably won’t because hockey is stupid and weird and values the wrong things. Anyway, let’s to it:

Hart Trophy – Nathan MacKinnon

You can give this to Connor McDavid, and much like the Mike Trout Corollary you’d never be wrong to do so, but MacK should be zeroing in on his first MVP (he finished second to Taylor Hall two years ago). The Avs have lost everyone else who matters for some length of time–LaxativeLog, Rantanen, Makar, and either of the goalies–and have still found themselves comfortably in 2nd in the Central and waiting for the Blues to cool off to chase them down. He’s only two points behind McDavid for the scoring title, and he hasn’t had his running buddies all year like McJesus has with Draisaitl.

Calder Trophy – Cale Makar

While Victor Olofsson has passed him in the rookie scoring race (whoever that is), that’s only because Makar was out injured. The Avs are simply a different team with him around, evidenced by their demolition of the Blues last night with him and deservedly losing to the Hawks at home without him. Quinn Hughes might make this interesting for a minute or two as well, but Makar is still well ahead of the field.

Vezina – Connor Hellebuyck

He won’t get it, because he’s down the list of top save-percentages or GAA among goalies. But considering he’s got no defense in front of him and he’s by far the biggest reason the Jets are still in an automatic playoff spot, he’s the pick here. Varlamov and Bishop play behind stout defenses, and Lehner is going to fall apart here soon enough. Kuemper is out longer-term so that ruins his chances. Hellebuyck has to perform small miracles every night after Josh Morrissey or Tucker Poolman cover themselves in their own vomit. Hellebuyck has the best difference between his SV% and his xSV%, and that’s enough for mer.

Norris Trophy – Dougie Hamilton

This is where things get interesting. Because everyone has their own theory on how to define the best “defenseman.” Some think it should be to whoever is playing the best defense. Others just find who scored the most points from the blue line and give it to him. Which makes the answer probably to split it, and give it to who’s been the best player who happens to be a d-man. And that’s Hamilton. He’s within, barely, enough points of John Carlson to not make that automatic, and his metrics are simply the best in the league (best CF% and second-best xGF%). Hamilton’s relative numbers blow Carlson’s out of the water as well.

If you’re looking for simply the Rod Langway award, which would go to the blue-liner playing the best defense, you can honestly make a serious case for Connor Murphy. No, I’m not kidding. His relative numbers in keeping attempts and chances down relative to how terrible his team is are second and third best in the league. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Selke Trophy – Zach Aston-Reese

This one always goes to whatever center people can remember wins a lot of faceoffs and scores a lot, so basically Patrice Bergeron. But we can do better. Aston-Reese has the lowest Corsi-against per 60, the lowest expected goals-against per 60, and he does that while only starting 30% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Seems pretty simple to me.

 

Hockey

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RECORDS: Hawks 13-16-6   Jets 20-12-2

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

YOUR TAUNTAUN WILL FREEZE TO DEATH: Jetsnation.ca

The last thing a team in turmoil in the dressing room and playing like shit needs is three games in four nights. Even worse, it needs even less those three games to be against teams at the top of the division. And we’re not done, as the last two of the troika are on the road, with the last at altitude. It’s Wiggum into the hot dog machine, folks…

To be fair, the Jets aren’t that close to the Blues or Avs. They’re just a hell of a lot closer than the Hawks are, and currently hold the last automatic spot in the Central. They only have that though with a tiebreaker over the Stars, and should the Stars catch them the Jets will be in the muck as much as anyone else hovering around the wildcard spots.

So how did the Jets get here? You’d probably naturally conclude they shot their way to 42 points, but you’d be wrong. It’s hard to fathom with all the firepower the Jets have in their top six that they’re a middling 16th in goals per game, but that’s the case. They can’t figure now if Patrik Laine’s first two years are actually the outlier and now he’s just a slightly plus-sniper, but moving to the top line hasn’t shown him to be the 50-goal scorer he once flashed. Blake Wheeler has moved to the second line and while he’s producing alongside Nikolaj Ehlers, they haven’t quite brought Jack Roslovic along for the ride.

Injuries up front haven’t helped. Bryan Little is taking his customary few weeks off with some ailment or something falling off of him. Mathieu Perreault got hurt recently, and Andrew Copp left Tuesday’s game and will miss out tonight. That’s eroded what used to be one of the best third lines in the league with Adam Lowry, who will have some strangers around him tonight.

The Jets have kept their goals against down, but that’s mostly due to the brilliance of Connor Hellebuyck. He’s currently third in the league in overall SV% behind Bishop and Kuemper, and the Jets have the sixth best SV% at evens. And they need it, because this is a woeful defensive team. The departure of Jacob Trouba and the sojourn of Dustin Byfuglien (somehow) has destroyed the blue line, as the Jets have the third-worst expected GA in the league. They’re right behind the Hawks. And the thing is they’re decent enough at limiting attempts. They just can’t do much about those attempts being prime chances far too often. Strangely, Tucker Poolman didn’t save the day. I know, right?

The Jets power play hasn’t really fired yet, but you’d have to expect a binge sometime given all that is has on it.  It lacks a true QB without Byfuglien, even though that’s a very weird sentence. With that and the play of Hellebuyck, you’d have to guess the Jets will find themselves in the playoffs again. And Paul Maurice will still hang onto his job, even though that defies explanation and the team quit on him last year.

For the Hawks, it’s hard to imagine they’ll scratch Seabrook a second night in a row, given that Keith and Toews were already moaning about it yesterday. Given the size the Jets still have, wouldn’t be a shock of Colliton uses that as an excuse to sit Boqvist and keep Gilbert in the lineup, even though the Jets are going to go right around him the way the Avs did. Robin Lehner rotates in. Perhaps Sikura could get a look now that Highmore has proven to be nothing more than an extra? I won’t hold my breath.

If the Hawks are smart, which they aren’t, they can get chances against this team because the blue line is straight-up bad. But they have to keep their zone from getting caved in, which is hard to do against this top six. It’ll be the same plan for the Jets as it was the Avs last night. Attack the Hawks line at speed and get around their plodding defense. Cycle from low to high to confuse their coverage. Win all the races because the Hawks can’t get there. Don’t let Kane and DeBrincat and Saad get out in space.

We’ll see if they execute. With another date with the Avs looming Saturday, this has every chance of being an ugly week. Not ugly enough to force any tough decisions of course. There’s a process, don’t ya know?

 

Everything Else

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SCHEDULE

Game 1 Wednesday in Winnipeg, 7pm

Game 2 Friday in Winnipeg, 8:30

Game 3 Sunday in St. Louis, 6:30

Game 4 April 16th in St. Louis, 8:30

While everyone…ok, everyone in Toronto, might bitch about the playoff format, you can’t argue that the 2-3 matchups provide a fuckton of intrigue. Across the board here, three of the four of those look like they’ll be long, competitive, fun series, with only the Pens and Isles being the exception because Trotz will turn it into a local council meeting. And it will probably still be competitive. This one might be the hardest to call, because it’s hard to know what the fuck the Jets have been doing and it’s hard to know what the Blues really are. It probably comes down to whether Jordan Binnington waked up and realizes he’s Jordan Binnington or not. This one feels like it’s going the route.

Goalies: Again, Jordan Binnington. He’s been simply cosmically good since finally wresting the starter’s job from Jake Allen when the Blues couldn’t force-feed it to him anymore. He’s the main reason the Blues went from worst to a pubic hair within the division title. Another reason they almost did is the Jets and Preds could never really get going.

Still, it’s Jordan Binnington, who even St. Louis Gametime hadn’t heard of before he came up and those fuckers literally have nothing else to do but sit and think about the Blues and try and craft statues of Stan Musial out of their own ear/toe wax. Maybe he is this good, and he keeps rolling. But he came unstuck a little in the season’s last month, with only a .912 in March and April. That’s better than league average, but you wonder if league average is enough when the Blues are still basically one line and the Jets are three and a half.

Jets fans have been bitching about Connor Hellebuyck all season, it’s what they do to keep warm. And he’s been fine rather than the really good he was last year. .913 is not .924, but it’s still better than average. Hellebuyck wasn’t helped by his defense, but he also didn’t bail them out as much as he should have. He had one of the higher expected save-percentages in the league and didn’t live up to it. But as we stated when the Jets were here last week, they’ve been horrific defensively for a good portion of the season. It’s unlikely Hellebuyck wins this for the Jets, but it’s just as unlikely he loses it.

Defense: We have a policy of never being impressed by the Blues defense. Alex Pietrangelo is fine, but he’s never been the all-conquering heir to Chris Pronger everyone wants you to believe he is. Colton Parayko, Jabe O’Meester, Joel Edmundson actively suck. Robert Bortuzzo is an ox. They’re finally letting Vinne Bag O’ Dunn run around, which gives them a puck-mover they’ve never had since Kirk ShattenKevin fucked off. But they play a style that doesn’t ask these guys much more than to get in the way, and they keep it pretty well shielded. Again, they won’t wow or impress you, but their mistakes never amount to what you think they should. The Jets forwards are awfully deep and awfully fast and certainly big enough where the Blues drooling on them isn’t going to make them quake. And yet it never works that way.

The Jets have their own problems. They’ve been a shit-heap back there for most of the season. Paul Maurice hasn’t shown any inclination to try and change things. Josh Morrissey will return for this, which is a boon as in the past he and Trouba have done the mine-sweeping to let Dustin Byfuglien and his large cowboy act to take the stage. The Jets have played worse than their talent suggests, even if I think Tyler Myers is a puppet show for the truly bewildered. And yet you can’t trust them, can you?

Forwards: The big advantage for the Jets. While the Blues revival came with greater offense, it mostly came from one line containing Ryan O’Reilly’s hero act and Vladimir Tarasenko taking time out from trying to get yet another coach fired to actually playing. He usually brings it in the playoffs, at least when he’s not yelling at Ken Hitchcock. And I expect him to do the later even with Hitch in absentia.

But beyond that, there isn’t a lot. You count on David Perron if you want. All I see is a stupid third period penalty in waiting. They keep boasting about Robert Thomas. I’m not sure I’ve seen a shift of his I remember. Jaden Schwartz isn’t playing with the quality of players that makes him a weapon. ROR and Tank can probably score just enough where they only need the occasional chip-in from someone else.

But against the Jets, that’s not enough. They may suck to high heaven defensively but this is still the deepest forward crop found in the West. I know Laine has had a truly weird year. He’s also capable of putting up 10 goals in a series. The Jets boast at least three lines that can hurt you and a pretty productive fourth line as well. They will find the weak spots in the Blues defense.

Prediction: It really comes down to can the Jets outscore whatever damage their defense is doing to themselves. Strangely, these teams haven’t seen each other since the first week in December, so it’s hard to see what the leaky Jets look like against the new St. Louis Blues. They’re not going to make it simple, but there’s too much firepower for the Jets and I can’t see Hellebuyck being bad enough to not at least hold them up just close enough for the offense to get over the wall. But it’s going to take a while.

Jets in seven. 

 

Everything Else

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RECORDS: Jets 45-29-4   Hawks 34-33-11

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: WGN

FROM YOUR FIRST CIGARETTE: Arctic Ice Hockey

And a one, and a two and a….WE SAIL THE OCEAN BLUE…

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Anyway, the Hawks begin the last week of the season, and their last homestand, tonight against the Central-co-leading Jets. It’s also tonight when the axe could finally fall on their adorable yet futile playoff hopes, not that anyone hasn’t already considered those worthy of formaldehyde and makeup. The Hawks will claim they have to play until the final gong, but based on whatever that was in LA on Saturday, they can no longer hide from the truth either.

Not the case for the Jets, who will go on into the playoffs with great hope once again. Or they should have, based on what this roster was supposed to do. But despite their 94 points and shared throne at the moment, the angst and annoyance levels in Manitoba have been high for months. The Jets haven’t looked an all-powerful, planet-consuming monster they flashed earlier in the year and for most of last season. They still pile up wins and points through talent, but Jets observers will tell you it’s built on a foundation in the sand.

The big problem for the Jets is they’re just not very good defensively. They give up a lot of attempts, shots, and chances, and there’s been little they can do to stem the tide. The blue line has always been a touch short of glamorous, and it’s been missing Dustin Byfuglien for half the season. Which shouldn’t hurt the defensive game, but clearly has. The puck is in the Jets zone far more than you think it would, and there’s been no one around to change that. Josh Morrissey being hurt of late hasn’t helped that cause either. They lack a second puck-mover, and even Buff can go off the reservation at times.

The Jets forwards aren’t defensively-ignorant either, but don’t seem inclined as they have been in past seasons. This is a team that doesn’t need the puck in the offensive zone as much as anyone else to score, because the depth of talent in the front-12 is still ungodly. But they seem more interested in waiting around for it to get there instead of forcing it there.

Also not helping is that a Paul Maurice team has returned to being a dumb Paul Maurice team as is his wont, the fourth-most penalized team in the league. And when your PK sucks, and the Jets’ does, that’s a problem as well. Again, the massive amount of talent has overcome almost all of this for most of the season. But starting next week when the chaff gets culled and the Jets are only seeing good teams, they could get found out in a hurry. If they can win the division, then a matchup with either wildcard team shouldn’t really scare them, especially if Ben Bishop is hurt. Don’t and a true slog against the Blues awaits. But when the Predators come calling, or any of the Pacific after that, it might look a lot like it did last year. Which for this team, simply isn’t good enough.

They can get right against the Hawks of course, whom they’ve spanked twice in Winnipeg but played with their food long enough to let the Hawks hang around. The Hawks were able to get them to overtime in their one meeting on Madison, but again, that was more to do with the inattentiveness of the Jets. If the Jets can be bothered, the Hawks can’t match their speed or their size or anything close. That’s a bad combination. But if the Jets are still out where the buses don’t run, the Hawks can create some looks off this defense that can’t get right. Especially if Byfuglien and Myers are at their wanderlust best.

It doesn’t really matter anymore. With only four games left, there isn’t any “momentum” to be gained for next year. All this is is a test of the Hawks’ professionalism and pride, and whether they give a jot about what their coach has to say or planned. And even then, that’s a stretch. Some players can play themselves out of a spot next year I guess, but if you’re basing what you do on a final four games, that’s how some awfully shoddy decisions get made.

One last roundup…

 

 

Game #79 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Gametime Art has been our friend for too long for his sake, and a Jets observer for an even unhealthier longer time. Follow him @GametimeArt.

While the Jets sit atop the Central, at the time of writing, all is not well in Manitoba. What has Jets fans so angsty?

They had such a strong season last year that I think many expected them to be even better or at the very least as good and it’s been actually worse and it’s pretty easy to spot the issues this team has. The team has struggled all season on defense. Most nights they are out-shot, the offense has been inconsistent, and up until a few weeks ago Connor Hellebuyck was a very average goalie with a save percentage hovering around .907 … If this season happened in 2015, Jets fans would overlook all of that and be happy anyway. Now in 2019? Not so much. We expected another 50 win, 100+ point year and instead got what we got now which is still a good team, but one not playing up to the level they should be at.

Patrik Laine, 50 points?
Seems strange right? Back in November when he went all super-nova goal scoring sniper on us we thought he’d have 50 goals by February. Part of it is Laine himself has struggled at times with his play and the whole “body language” thing of being overly frustrated has been well noted, but there are also nights that it feels like Paul Maurice is expecting him to carry a line and be a play-maker more than a finisher which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There’s even the odd conspiracy theory that suggests the coaching staff may have submarined his season with questionable lineup decisions and not giving him chances to succeed, just so his RFA deal this summer won’t be as high as it sure was looking like it would be back in November. That’s how odd and crazy this season has been. In a strange way I get this feeling a season like this may end up making him a better, more complete overall player which is kind of what Maurice has wanted anyway. He has demonstrated a knack for slick passing lately, so who knows.
How has Kevin Hayes, aka Captain Stairwell, fit in?
He’s fit in ok and has been better than Bryan Little has been which is a relief since this is now the second season in a row the Jets have spent assets to pick up an actual decent second line center since Little isn’t really working out in that role. I’d argue he’s looked as good as Paul Stastny did when he joined the Jets last season which bodes well for the playoffs, but the difference here may be that Jets fans don’t want to get too attached since there probably will be very little chance the team can keep him beyond this summer.
Whatever the problems may be, this is a team that’s Cup-or-bust. So what’s it gonna be?
Unless this team pulls off something remarkable (like the Caps last season, so ya know, it’s possible) it’s going to be bust and I fear it may be in fact a one round and done type situation this season. That said, for as disappointing as it will be to miss out on a Cup, I don’t think the window is closing already. The Jets are still one of the youngest teams in the league, the core is still there beyond this season and there are still kids like Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen on the way.

 

Game #79 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Obviously, nothing much has changed from Tuesday. So here’s the Q&A we ran with Derek Gagnon (@DerekGagnon1) from ArcticIceHockey.com.

Overhanging the Jets season is a sort of “Cap-ocalypse” in the summer. Does this season have a feeling of now or never?
Not so much, though there is a feeling that this group will see some change next year. This team is still young, and players like Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine should only improve as time goes by. The way things are going, the Jets should be a contender for a number of years to come.
With the cap going to $83 million or so, the Jets have something around $27 million in space now, with Trouba, Laine, Connor seemingly the must-keeps, along with a few other free agents. It seems doable, Is it?

I think it’s doable, though some sacrifices will have to be made along the way. Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor look to be Jets long term, and will get paid handsomely on their next contracts. There are some questions on defense though. The Jacob Trouba contract situation has been a concern for years, and with only one more season of restricted-free agent status left after this season, if they aren’t able to sign him long term it may be time to move him in the off-season. Tyler Myers is another situation that needs addressing. He’s being paid $5.5 million  this year to play third pairing minutes, and not play them overly well. As an unrestricted free agent, I would expect the Jets to cut ties, but they may not if the Trouba contract isn’t long-term.

The cap being projected to go up to $83 million definitely works in the Jets favor, as that extra room will come in handy. Even then, it might mean more players on entry-level contracts on the team, rather than guys like Brandon Tanev. Mason Appleton and Kristian Vesalainen are a couple of names that could benefit from a cap crunch.

Why hasn’t Jack Roslovic popped more? Huge pedigree, big excitement, is it just the fourth line role he has right now?
Right now, I think it’s a combination of a lack of minutes and the insistence he play center, where he seems to be struggling. While dominant at the AHL level, it just hasn’t clicked at the NHL level yet. Things seemed to be progressing when he was briefly reunited with the former Manitoba Moose (AHL) line of Nic Petan, Roslovic and Mason Appleton, but Petan was dropped from the lineup in favor of Brendan Lemieux and there hasn’t been chemistry. Playing an average of 7:43 per night doesn’t help either.
Is there real worry about Connor Hellebuyck two months plus into the season? Or just negotiating the following season after playing deep into the playoffs for the first time and he’ll bounce back in plenty of time?
I think that it actually might be the change in pads that has plagued Connor Hellebuyck. The smaller chest protector seems to be taking some getting used to for Hellebuyck, which has seen more rebounds and the occasional tentative effort. I have full confidence that he will adapt and overcome, as he has exhibited his ability to be great at every level he has played at, including the NHL. His last three starts have been quite solid, stopping a combined 89 of 92 shots, so perhaps that corner has been turned.

 

Game #34 Preview Suite

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