JETBLAST: Game Day Preview Mar. 23/12 Jets at Capitals

(37-30-7) 81 points (34-31-8) 76 points

8th in East, 2nd in Southeast

10th in East, 3rd in Southeast

Capitals

The Capitals sit only 4 points behind the division leading and currently 3rd seeded Florida Panthers, but their bigger concern is the rear view mirror. Behind them sit the Buffalo Sabres trailing by 1 point, Winnipeg trailing by 5 and Carolina has snuck in as a dark horse only 6 points back. Tampa Bay and Toronto are all but officially eliminated trailing by 8 and 9 points respectively. They come into tonight’s match up looking to avenge a 3-2 loss a week ago in Winnipeg. A victory will all but eliminate the Jets from the playoff picture realistically. In this four point game the Caps could extend their lead to as much as 7 points and a Carolina win over Columbus would see the Jets leap frogged by the Hurricanes. A loss and a Buffalo win would see them fall to 9th spot while the Jets could pull within 3 points of the Capitals and just 4 back of 8th.

After tonight’s game the Caps will have 7 games remaining, 4 at home (Wild, Sabres, Canadiens, Panthers) and 3 on the road (Bruins, Lightning, Rangers). The Sabres will have 7 games left, 3 at home (Wild, Penguins, Leafs) and 4 on the road (Capitals, Leafs, Flyers, Bruins). They also play in New York against the Rangers tonight. The Jets meanwhile will have 8 games remaining, 3 at home (Senators, Rangers, Lightning) and 5 games on the road (Predators, Hurricanes, Lightning, Panthers, Islanders). The Hurricanes play in Columbus tonight then will have 7 games remaining, 3 at home (Jets, Devils, Canadiens) and 4 on the road (Red Wings, Leafs, Senators, Panthers. The Panthers host the Oilers tonight then will have 8 games remaining, 3 at home (Islanders, Jets, Hurricanes) and 5 of the road (Canadiens, Wild, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Capitals).

Every game is important for the Capitals, but perhaps none more so then the head to head match ups with the Jets tonight, the Sabres on March 27 and the Panthers April 5. Washington has been solid of late going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games but more importantly sport the 3rd best home record in the East (23-10-3) just slightly better than Winnipeg (23-11-4). So as well as playing for the post season there is also some pride on the line as well. It will be interesting to see how Caps fans react to the Jets after many took to Twitter after last weeks games to defend Ovechkin and ridicule Jets fans for ever thinking that Crosby could be better. The bad news for the Capitals is they dropped a shoot out loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last night and come into this game with a 5-6-1 record in the second game of the back to back having wins against the Red Wings, Leafs (2), Blue Jackets and Canadiens.

Jets

The Jets have reached that critical part in the season when it’s time to put up or shut up and anything but a win tonight will be all but a mathematical elimination from the playoffs. They do have a game in hand over Washington and with a win they will pull within 3 points. The problem is that if Buffalo wins they’ll sit 4 points ahead with a Jets win and 6 points with a Jets loss. To make matters even worse the Carolina Hurricanes will leap-frog the Jets if they fail to win tonight and the Canes do. To say the playoff picture is murky would be an understatement but if the Jets want to stay in it they need the two points.

They’ll head to Nashville tomorrow night for the second last time this season that they will have to play back-to-back games, and with only 1 win if the second game it is unlikely the Jets could knock off a very good Predators team away from the MTS Centre. If the Capitals go 4-4 over their last 8 games the Jets would need to go 7-2 over their last 9. A win tonight is crucial for that to happen. Even if the Jets were to accomplish that they would have to hope the Sabres can’t do better than a 5–3 record over their final 8 games. The Capitals currently hold the tie breaker over the Jets, while the Jets hold it over the Sabres.

The good news for Jets fans is that the game after a blowout has been good for the Jets and they have responded with a win the next game except after lose 7-3 against Montreal then losing 4-0 to Toronto but followed that game with a 2-1 win in Buffalo. That game against the Leafs was also the second game of a back-to-back. The Jets have had 3 days between games allowing the team to rest up and prepare for the big tilt in Washington. There’s no doubt that Ondrej Pavelec will also have to respond, excluding his performance in the first Philadelphia match up (7 ga) after he was pulled against the Hurricanes he has allowed only 7 goals over 5 games and faced 147 shots for a save percentage of .952. Even with the Philly game his save percentage after getting yanked is .927 compared to his season average of .909. The only bad news is the Jets still lost 2 (1-0 Lightning, 2-1 Blue Jackets) of those games failing to score more than once, but the record for the Jets in the game following when Pavelec is pulled is 4-2.

Keys to Victory

Rebound from the Penguins. That game was an onslaught and the Jets have been good all year of brushing off bad loses with a good game following. That Pens blow out may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Score first. The Jets continue to dominate at after scoring first and every game the first goal will be huge especially when on the road and trying to take the crowd out of the game.

High Intensity. The Jets are at their best when they are skating hard and hitting everything that moves. They need to bring the heat and make the Caps wonder when it’ll stop.

Pavelec. They will not win if he doesn’t respond, the good news is he’s responded all season and they’ll need tonight to be no different.

Injuries

Eric Fehr (Upper Body) – Questionable
Nik Antropov (Lower Body) – Questionable
Chris Thorburn (Upper Body) – Out Indefinitely

Starting Goalies

Jets – Ondrej Pavelec (27-25-7, 2.84, .909) [Confirmed]
Capitals – Micheal Neuvirth (11-12-4, 2.85, .900) [Unconfirmed]

Prediction

This game will be a dog fight and normally in those cases you can throw all the numbers and stats out the window. That being said Pavelec has been almost unbeatable the game following being pulled so look for him to stand on his head and single handily save the day.

Winnipeg Jets 3 – Washington Capitals 2

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of winnipegwhiteout.com and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.

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