An old rivalry is renewed Tuesday night when the final champions of the Southeast division, The Washington Capitals, visit the MTS Center. While Winnipeg was in the Eastern Conference there were numerous battles between these two teams, bringing out both the best, and worst of the Winnipeg Jets. Most recently the Caps have brought out the worst in the Winnipeg team, beating the Jets 3 times in a row at the MTS Center by a combined score of 13-1. With new scheduling having every team play in every building this rivalry will have a chance to continue to grow, so buckle in, this should be a good one.
For the second year in a row the Capitals have started slow and much below their potential. In the new metropolitan division, Washington has struggled, starting with a 3-5-0 record. Much like the Winnipeg Jets the Caps have not been able to establish a clear and consistent identity. Gone are the free wheeling days of Bruce Boudreau, but at times the team seems hesitant to fully embrace the new defence first principals of Coach Adam Oates. Though they remain a very dangerous offensive team, the strengths have shifted over to the back end. Alzner, Green, Carlson, and Erskine spend their time playing stingy hard hitting defence that seems to suffocate teams. Behind them is Olympic hopeful Braden Holtby who has proved himself more than capable of stealing games and has quickly climbed the ranks as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. The Caps have all the tools and on nights that they put it all together this is a very scary team.
Sunday night was another head scratcher for fans of the Winnipeg Jets. Once again the Jets were given an opportunity in their home barn to play a team coming in on a back-to-back, and once again the Jets failed to capitalize. Winnipeg turned in an ugly performance where once again it became near impossible to find a bright spot, or a player who played a strong, mistake free game. The Jets were bad plain and simple and they need a bounce back here in the final game of a long home stand. Since that game the Jets forwards have again been given a bit of a shuffle and we will see new lines once again. Winnipeg has failed to find a real scoring punch or any consistency. With a long difficult road trip coming, the Jets must come together and play 60 minutes in all 3 zones.
The Great 8: You cannot talk about the Washington Capitals without mentioning Alex Ovechkin. Though he seems to have become a streaky player recently, Ovechkin is still one of the best pure scorers in the NHL. He can change a game with one rush, one good shot. Keep Ovi in line and you go a long way to shutting down the Caps
Create chances: Winnipeg has not been able to score much recently. Though the shot totals have gone way up, the actual scoring chances have evaporated. Winnipeg has been managing shots from the outside, from the corners, and have not been able to get to the net at all. Winnipeg has to find away to create real scoring chances if they want to get a W.
Kane: Evander Kane has been by far the best Jet this year and with the changes to the lines he may have to be even better. Whether these lines will work better together, and generate some offence remains to be seen, but if not the Jets will lean on their stars and at the head of the pack is Kane. Number 9 is one of the few players who can create offence by himself and he will need to for the Jets to win.
Ondrej Pavelec (3-5-0) GAA: 3.01 SV% .904
Braden Holtby (2-4-0) GAA: 2.91 SV% .913
Trouba WPG, (neck) out
Stuart WPG, (lower body) day-to-day
Thorburn WPG, (undisclosed) out
Slater WPG, (undisclosed) unknown
Hillen WSH, (lower body) out
Erskine WSH, (Upper body) day-to-day
Defensive struggle, Jets win ugly
Jets 2 Capitals 1