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The Jets recently wrapped up their homestand with a decent week of hockey. They went 2-1-1 in their four games and have settled into the wildcard race in the Western Conference. After four straight games at home, it’s time for four straight games on the road as the Jets are visiting Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville and Dallas before returning home next weekend.

The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Winnipeg’s last 11 games this season. – from OddsShark.com

As the team begins their road trip tonight against the Panthers, let’s catch up on some things to watch for.

1) High Danger Scoring Chances

It’s been an absolute ghost-town in the slot this season. The Jets are really struggling at getting to the high danger areas on the ice. First of all, this is supported by the eye test, as the Jets more often than not sit back and take shots from the perimeter areas. There’s not much traffic in the crease and the opposing team can easily swat away rebounds or freeze the puck. Most Jets fans would agree that this has been a major problem this season, but let’s see just how big that problem actually is…

As you can see, that great big sea in front of the crease confirms what the eyes have been seeing all year long. In terms of quantifiable impact, the Jets pose a 14% lesser threat than league average.

One of the major keys against Florida will be getting into these high danger areas to really make the opposing goalie work for each save.

2) Penalties Taken

The Winnipeg Jets have done an excellent job of staying out of the penalty box this season. The Jets sit last in the league in terms of penalty minutes as they have only accumulated 87 on the year. The next lowest team is Pittsburgh with 114 penalty minutes. In terms of minor penalties taken, the Jets also sit last in the league with only 38 minor penalties on the year. Once again, Pittsburgh is the next lowest with 42 minor penalties. For reference, Calgary has taken over twice as many minor penalties as they lead the league with 82 minors taken.

While the Jets have drastically improved their penalty kill in the last few weeks, staying out of the box is a big item to watch against the Panthers. Florida’s currently 7th in the league in PP% as they are scoring on 24.6% of their opportunities. The Jets still sit near the bottom of the league in penalty killing which makes special teams an important factor in tonight’s game.

3) Defensive Lapses

This was the main concern after the 4-0 loss to Colorado. The Jets played a really strong game in terms of shot attempts and scoring chances, but their poor defensive judgement led to multiple Avalanche goals. The Jets have struggled in their own zone all season long. While the overall play is starting to get better, the terrible lapses in judgement still happen far too often and can lead to multiple goals against in a single game. The Jets need to buckle down and play a full 60 minutes if they want to have success going forward.

4) Powerplay Puck Movement

The Jets have recently moved around their powerplay units in an effort to get better puck movement and a different look than the past few years. While the new units have looked really good at times, they have also showed glimpses of slow passing and missed opportunities. The main concern with the Wheeler/Laine unit is how slowly they are moving the puck. Laine has started to find his groove again, but it takes far too long for Winnipeg to get the puck to his prime shooting area.

Laine is going to be the most effective when he’s getting crisp swing passes from either Wheeler or Pionk. The puck needs to be sliding towards him quickly for two reasons. Number one, the faster the pass towards Laine, the more velocity he will get with the one-timer. Reason number two is that moving the puck side to side quicker will give the penalty kill and the goaltender much less time to ready themselves for a Laine one-timer.

These slow passes are the reason we are seeing Laine’s shot get blocked more often than last year.

Switching up the powerplay units is fine and all, but the Jets need to figure out a better way to move the puck around the ice if they want to be effective.

Bold Prediction

Bobrovsky’s terrible season is due for a bounce back game. The Jets have struggled to get pucks to the centre of the ice so Bobrovsky is a prime candidate to have a stellar game. This will be a low scoring affair, but the Panthers will come out on top 3-2.