Hopefully the Winnipeg Jets ave enjoyed their week-ish long player break – which comes to an end later this afternoon as they will practice at Bell MTS Place at 2 PM. There is a sound argument to be made that no team in the NHL needed a seven day break away from any hockey rinks more than the Jets did. Since the middle of December the club has been on a slow and stead spiral down the NHL standings and struggling in almost all aspects.
Since December 17, the Jets have posted a 5-11-2 record which has been highlighted by two awful stretches of five losses in six games in December, and six losses in their last seven games played going into the break this month.
As the team adjourned for the break after their last loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jets captain Blake Wheeler summed up what needed to happen next:
#NHLJets captain Blake Wheeler on the break for his club:
"I think it’s time to figure things out. We’ve got eight days to decide what type of push we want to make and what type of team we want to have going forward."
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) January 23, 2020
Hopefully a decision has been made because ready or not, the next five games the Jets will play take place within eight days starting tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins and ending a little over a week later against the Ottawa Senators. In-between those two games are three inter-divisional games against the two biggest rivals the Jets have had over the last two seasons.
Friday, January 31 – Boston Bruins @ Winnipeg Jets
Bruins record: 29-10-12 (70 points), 1st in NHL Atlantic Division
Games played before this one: None. The Bruins will also be coming off their player break, so rest wise, everything is even between the two teams. It’s maybe worth noting they’ve won two of their last three going into the break I suppose.
Previous meeting: The Jets paid a visit to Boston back on January 9th and lost a relatively competitive game against the Bruins by a 5-4 score. The Jets had a one goal lead twice in the game including the third period, but two Bruins goals in the span of 33 seconds cost the Jets a victory.
What the Jets will be facing: David Pastrnak lead the Bruins in points with 70 and not only leads his team in goals with 37, but is in a neck and neck race with Toronto’s Auston Matthews for the league lead in goals. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are also both key veteran forwards for the team who are just as dangerous offensively as Pastrnak is. Jake Debrusk gave the Jets fits in their last meeting with a pair of goals and an assist. The B’s defense is just as deep as well with Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara who was a player the Jets didn’t have to deal with the first time around, but will be paying a visit to Winnipeg this time around. Tuukka Rask was dealing with concussion issues going into the break and it’s unknown at the moment if he’ll be good to go, but if he isn’t Jaroslav Halak has done a fine job holding things down for the B’s in net.
So can the Jets win this one? It might be foolish to expect a win here.
Saturday, February 1 – St Louis Blues @ Winnipeg Jets
Blues record: 31-12-8 (70 points), 1st in NHL Central Division
Games played before this one: Both teams will have played the previous night, the Jets against the aforementioned Bruins, and the Blues will have been in Edmonton taking on the Oilers, so slight advantage to the Jets on that front. The Blues will have already had a busy week with this game being the fourth and final game of a Western Canada road swing that started on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks
Previous meetings: The Jets and Blues had a home and away set in the last weekend of December and the Blues took both of those games. Game one in Winnipeg saw a late goal from Blake Wheeler force overtime, but David Perron scored in extra time. Two days later in St. Louis, the Jets again did put up a bit of a fight but fell 4-1 to the Blues.
What the Jets will be facing: The Blues have been streaky this season, but more streaky good than streaky bad. They’ve shown that there is no real Stanley Cup hangover and much like they did last season, will just come at you in unrelenting waves. There is no one big forward line because all four lines the team rolls is consistently strong. Five players at the moment are over the 40 point mark (compare that to the Bruins who only have three players over that same point total). David Perron is their leading goal (22) and points (52) guy, but they also get steady offense from Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz while Alex Pietrangelo and Jordan Binnington take care of the Blues defensive end.
So can the Jets win this one? Given that the Jets face the Blues in St. Louis five days after this match, a win here is critical and should be very possible given the road the Blues will have had to deal with the past week. A loss against Boston might be understandable, a loss here would sound more alarms though.
Tuesday, February 4 – Nashville Predators @ Winnipeg Jets
Predators record: 23-19-7 (53 points), 6th in NHL Central Division
Games played before this one: The Preds will have played a road back to back against the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils before playing a third game in four nights at home against the Vegas Golden Knights. Nashville at least gets a couple of days between that game at home against Vegas before heading back on the road to pay the Jets a visit.
Previous meetings: Both of these clubs have a win in each other’s barn and both games were relatively boring, grind-it-out type contests. Back on November 19, the Jets took a 2-1 victory away from Nashville thanks to early goals in the first and second period and a stellar 38 save performance from Connor Hellebuyck. December 12th’s matchup was even more low-event than the first with the Predators squeaking out a 1-0 win in Winnipeg with a Kyle Turris goal in the first period and a poor offensive effort from the Jets the entire game.
What the Jets will be facing: Nashville has struggled just as much as the Jets have this season but the biggest difference between the two clubs up until recently was that the Jets were staying afloat due to stellar goaltending, while the Predators team save percentage ranks near the very bottom of the league with sub-par work from Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Their offense should be better than it is, but on any given night can come alive and be good for four or more goals a game. Filip Forsberg Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene can be difference makers on offense when they are on their game, while Roman Josi is the team’s leader on defense and is supported by Ryan Ellis
So can the Jets win this one? If the Jets can play even slightly better and with a little more urgency in this game than they did back on December, there is no reason to think this game can’t be a win for Winnipeg. It might be helpful to remind the Jets that handing the Preds a loss here would put them a littler further back in the rear view mirror.
Thursday, February 6 – Winnipeg Jets @ St Louis Blues
Games played before this one: Just like the Jets, the Blues have one other game between meetings with Winnipeg. Their sandwich meat game happens to be against the Carolina Hurricanes two days earlier at home.
So can the Jets win this one? Two wins against the Blues within one week? Doesn’t seem likely, especially in St. Louis where the Blues are a stellar 17-4-4 at home. Jets fans shouldn’t maybe expect much from this one.
Saturday, February 8 – Ottawa Senators @ Winnipeg Jets
Predators record: 18-23-9 (45 points), 7th in NHL Atlantic Division
Games played before this one: Ottawa will have hosted a couple of home games leading up to this Hockey Day In Canada contest against the Jets, and they’ll happen on the same dates that the Jets have games. Tuesday they’ll play the Anaheim Ducks and then a couple of days later, host the Colorado Avalanche.
Previous meetings: This will be the first of two games the clubs will play with the second scheduled for February 20. Last season the Jets lost both games – one in regulation time and the other in overtime to a Senators club that went 29-47-6 in 2018-19.
What the Jets will be facing: On the bright side, they won’t be facing Mark Stone who was a big part of those two Ottawa wins last season. The Senators this season are lead by Anthony Duclair and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on offense while Thomas Chabot holds things down on the Sens blueline. The Senators are not an overly deep team, but they are scrappy and taking them lightly would be a mistake. Also you can probably expect overtime when facing the Sens as four of their last seven games played have needed extra time to be decided.
So can the Jets win this one? Of all five games, this is the most “winnable” one, but as we’ve seen against the Red Wings this season, games that on paper look to be wins still require the Jets to come through with a full 60 minute effort. Should be a Jets victory to close this five game segment of the schedule, but if it isn’t, depending on how the previous four games went, we’ll likely have our answer to the questions Blake Wheeler posed before the players break started.