The Winnipeg Jets can either fly high or crash and burn this season, and their chances of making the playoffs hinge on their goaltending.
In this strike-shortened season, a fans’ hockey wagering strategy resemble those of the playoffs because of the 48-game season where every game is a must-win. As wageronsports.com advises, the most crucial part of any team’s playoff puzzle is the goalie, and that is the biggest unknown for the Jets.
At the end of last season, the Jets signed a five-year, $19.5 million contract with Ondrej Pavelec, even though his best season was 2007-2008 in the AHL, and he hasn’t appeared in a playoff game in five years. Despite playing his 200th NHL game in February, some fans question how Pavelec will perform under pressure, noting he is tremendously inconsistent and tends to give up soft goals – a habit that kills teams in a playoff run. Journeyman Al Montoya, who signed a one-year contract with the team in the off-season, was positioned to get starts if Pavelec was injured – before Montoya went down earlier in the season.
The team substantially improved with key free-agent signing of veteran Olli Jokinen, who brings both leadership and offensive firepower to the lineup. The Jets, who finished 11th in the Eastern Division with a 37-35-10 last season and were only mathematically eliminated after their 79th game, had one of the saddest penalty kill ratings last year. They were ranked 24th overall, and one of the reasons Jokinen was signed was to shore up that crucial part of the game.
Young forwards Blake Wheeler, Alexander Burmistrov and Bryan Little also must produce goals this season, not just to help the team win but because they are all in contract years. Left winger Evander Kane was under particularly heavy pressure to produce this year after signing a six-year, $31.5 million contract. He is now enjoying his best season, leading fans who complained his contract was too rich to concede that he’s beginning to look like a bargain for what he brings to the team. The team improved substantially in most areas as a team depth chart shows.
Another key point for the Jets is to better their road record – which they appear on track to do. The team went 14-22-5 away from home last season, and has been handed one of the toughest road schedules in the league this year.