The Winnipeg Jets play their second straight game at home tonight as they host the Detroit Red Wings. This isn’t your parent’s Red Wings team as a perennial powerhouse, rather this version is sitting in dead last in the league. With only 17 points in 31 games, Detroit is easily the worst team in the league this year. Even when looking at the standings, the Jets can’t take this game for granted. Hockey is known to be a funny sport where anything can happen. With that in mind, here’s what to watch for during tonight’s game.
1) Strong Start
The Winnipeg Jets can’t afford to play down to Detroit’s level. It can often be tough when playing a team near the bottom of the standings because the motivation isn’t as strong compared to playing a divisional rival or another playoff team. Even though the motivation might not be there, the Jets will want to get off to a strong start. Teams that lose lots of games can be dangerous if you let them hang around. The Jets found that out the hard way against the Ducks on Sunday. Winnipeg went up by a goal but couldn’t find the insurance marker as they allowed Anaheim to stay within one goal. It came back to haunt them in the third period as the Ducks tied up the game in the final frame. Luckily the Jets were able to win it, but allowing struggling teams to stay in the game is the worst thing to do.
Look for the Jets to try and pounce early and often in this one and slowly ride out the game after building up a lead.
2) Powerplay or Power-nap
The man-advantage has been a real struggle all season long as Winnipeg sits near the bottom of the league in terms of powerplay percentage. When digging into the numbers, Winnipeg is an interesting case. They generate shots fairly well (10th in league) but drop in terms of xGF (18th in league). The most interesting part is that even with the 18th most xGF, Winnipeg sits 22nd in actual goals with 14.
The main reason for this lowly goal total is due to the really low shooting percentage of 9.72% which is 26th in the league.
To recap, the Jets are getting shots, but the quality of those shots is poor. Their goal total is even worse than what is expected and that’s due to one of the worst shooting percentages on the powerplay this season.
This graph likely illustrates it the best. As you can see, the Jets are above the horizontal line which means they are generating shots better than average. The issue is that their xGoals is to the left of the vertical line which means they generate fewer quality chances.
In terms of the eye test, the Jets have struggled to get clean entries in the past few games and even had a few powerplays where they didn’t set up at all. In terms of the top unit, teams are overplaying Laine which gives Wheeler a tougher pass to make. With Pionk not really showcasing himself as a threat, the penalty kill is able to sag off and cover both Scheifele and Laine without giving up too much. The Jets haven’t adjusted yet and continue to try and work the passes through the middle of the ice where they get gobbled up by the penalty killers. The change that needs to be made would be for Pionk to move slightly closer to the net and more towards the middle of the ice. This would make his shot much more dangerous and the penalty kill would have to adjust which would theoretically give Scheifele and Laine more room.
That’s my rant for the day. Easier said than done, but something has to change.
3) Home and Home
The Jets recently had a home and home series with Dallas and they have another one this week as both Winnipeg and Detroit will fly over to Michigan on Thursday for the rematch. Being a team from the opposite conference, these will be the only two games that are played between the two clubs all year long. It’s just another interesting schedule quirk for the Jets who have seen their share of oddities this season.
Although it’s been a lighter load this season, Brossoit hasn’t had the numbers to back it up. After being one of the best backups in the league last year, Brossoit has struggled out of the gate in this season with a SV% of .885.
Looking at the season totals can be misleading however, as Brossoit has had three straight games where he’s played really well. He played a great game against the Kings a few weeks ago but was stuck with the loss as the Jets only mustered a single goal. The game before that he played really well as the Jets played the Blue Jackets. Unfortunately he had to leave the game in the third period while the game was still tied. Hellebuyck came in and the Jets scored the go-ahead goal which gave Hellbuyck the win in the boxscore.
With a few strong performances in a row, look for Brossoit to have another solid outing against the Red Wings. Hopefully he can actually pick up the win this time.
Among current roster players, only Ehlers and Laine have averaged at least a point per game against the Red Wings over their careers. Look for both youngsters to have a strong game and finish with at least two points each. The Jets pounce on the weak prey and keep rolling with a 5-1 victory.