JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ TORONTO

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (30-20-10) at Toronto Maple Leafs (23-31-5) 6:00 p.m., Air Canada Center,
TV: CBC Radio: TSN 1290
An all Canadian match up on a Saturday Night in front of a national audience on Hockey Night in Canada. This is what it is all about for many Canadian boys and girls growing up, watching their heroes every Saturday. The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs will get the opportunity to play on that show case tonight in Toronto in what could be a huge match up for the Jets. The Leafs have been dreadful since these two teams last met, a 5-1 Jets win in Winnipeg, while Winnipeg has had its ups and downs. The Jets need to have a win while the Leafs try to avoid further embarrassment on the national stage. Jets and Leafs Hockey night in Canada, Lets Go!

Maple Leafs

On January 3rd, the Toronto Maple Leafs played a game in Winnipeg against the Jets. The game was an all around disaster for the Leafs who got dominated for 60 minutes and lost 5-1. At that point the Leafs were still pretty locked into a playoff spot. The next day, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was fired in favor of interim coach Peter Horachek, and since that change, the Maple Leafs have entered a tail spin getting only 2 wins in the 19 games. They have looked absolutely awful and have gone from playoff contender to Connor McDavid contender. It is a disaster in Toronto, cries of uncoachable players and people not working hard are bountiful, the Leafs still have skill on this roster but for some reason they cannot put it together. Phil Kessel is still the offensive leader on this team, taking the top spot in both goals and assists, however he also draws the most criticism from the media. Kessel gets his work ethic called in to question on an almost nightly basis, but there is no denying is skill in the offensive zone. If it is a game that he is fully engaged in, the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the top scorers in the league on their side.

Jets

It all came crashing down on the Jets Thursday night in Washington. A 5-1 loss was a wake up call for Winnipeg who hopefully see it as such. The main aspect of their game that will be called in to question is the penalty kill. The Jets gave up 4 power play goals to the Caps, but more concerning is the penalties they took. Going into the game everyone knew that penalties could kill the Jets, going against the second best penalty kill which is near unstoppable at home. However that meant nothing to Winnipeg who continued to take penalties, over and over again, and none good. The amount of lazy stick infractions was unbelievable, and just dumb plays all around. One of the leaders in this category, is also surprisingly one of the leaders in the room, Andrew Ladd. Ladd is in the top 5 in penalties in the league, with an unusually high amount of tripping penalties, which are nearly never acceptable. He has also become quite proficient at offensive zone penalties, nothing in the game can take away momentum more than a guy sticking out his stick and pulling someone down 100+ feet from his own net. Not only unnecessary but unacceptable for the Jets, and the way the penalty kill has went they can’t afford them at all.

Keys to the Game

Take Advantage: The Toronto Maple Leafs are a terrible team, from their goaltender to their top line forwards, this team has been an absolute disaster in the last month and a half. This is a team, like the Edmonton Oilers last week, that the Jets cannot afford to lose to. The Winnipeg Jets need to take advantage of a losing team, and get some points. Everyone behind them is catching up, and will get pass by if the Jets keep struggling.

Discipline: The Winnipeg Jets have not been able to stop taking penalties, more concerning, they haven’t been able to stop giving up goals on the penalty kill. Those two things don’t really work good together. The Jets have taken over 418 penalty minutes, and seen their PK% drop down to just 80%,  and only around 60% since the all star break. The Jets need to find a solution, either start killing off some penalties, or play a little bit smarter, and stay out of the box!

Shoot the Puck: The Toronto Maple Leafs have not been able to get any kind of consistent goaltending all year, it has been one of the major Achilles heels for this team, they have not been able to keep the puck out of their net. The Jets need to throw everything they can at the net, with enough shots and a little bit of pressure, some pucks will go in, and they will go a long way to picking up the W.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (17-7-3) GAA: 2.30 SV% .920
Jonathan Bernier (16-18-5) GAA: 2.72 SV% .914

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Halischuk, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Perreault, WPG, (LBI) out

Smith, TOR, (LBI) day-to-day
Lupul, TOR, (LBI) day-to-day
Phaneuf, TOR, (Hand) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 4-4-2
Maple Leafs: 1-8-1

Prediction

Jets take advantage of some glaring weak spots.
Jets 4 Maple Leafs 1

Become an MVP

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Diehard Winnipeg sports fan. Agree or disagree with something I wrote? Find me on twitter @seantheoilcan and let me know Go Jets Go!