Game 24 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Carolina Hurricanes

Winnipeg Jets (9-9-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (8-11-3)
RBC Center 7 p.m.
TV:
FS Carolinas, TSN Jets

The Canes are 2-1-1 in the past week and have looked considerably better after that 4-0 whitewashing they took at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. I’ve noticed that the team has been playing a lot better in the defensive zone and my thoughts were confirmed with this article from Chip Alexander which explains how Paul Maurice has implimented a more defensive system. Instead of defensemen jumping into the play, you’ll see more of them laying back and guarding the point. You’ll also see the team putting more emphasis on a dump & chase style game where there is more emphasis on speed and less on manuvering through the neutral & offensive zone. The Canes are the fourth worst team in the league in shots allowed at even strength so I’m all for tigtening things up right now, especially with the lack of horsepower in the top-six. However, the negative effect of this system is there isn’t much offensive pressure and the Canes are a bottom-five team in terms of shots for, as well. My guess is that Maurice recognizes the lack of talent up front and realizes that the team is going to have to do a better job at preventing goals if we can’t score. Similar to the system Jacques Martin runs under the Montreal Canadiens.

Speaking of the Canadiens, the game against them on Wednesday showed some of the flaws with this system. The team had the puck in the Montreal zone countless times but failed to generate scoring chances because it looked like no one had idea had to do with the puck. Also, the team employed a defensive shell when they took a 2-0 lead and didn’t do much to create offense and it eventually cost them the lead. This is one thing I hate about this kind of system and it’s something I hope the team can fix. They take on another team with not a lot of offensive firepower in the Winnipeg Jets tonight.

Lines & Defense pairings

Hurricanes

Skinner – Staal – Ruutu
Ponikarovsky – Jokinen – LaRose
Tlusty – Sutter – Dwyer
Stewart – Brent – Sutter

Gleason – Faulk
McBain – Allen
Joslin – Kaberle

Ward

Jets

Ladd – Antropov – Wellwood
Kane – Little – Wheeler
Glass – Slater – Burmistrov
Thorburn – Stapleton – Fehr

Byfuglien – Stuart
Hainsey – Bogosian
Flood – Oduya

Mason

What happened last time

This was a mostly forgettable game where the Canes lost 5-3 partially due to an awful performance from Brian Boucher and a couple bad bounces. The one positive thing that came from this game was that it sparked the return of the “Skinn & Finns” line as Skinner, Ruutu & Jokinen were reunited and it led to a third period goal. Those three along with LaRose had a pretty solid game overall and the Jets are playing with a couple different defense pairings from that game. Ron Hainsey has returned to the lineup which gives them another stay-at-home guy to put up against one of the Canes top two lines. However, that also leaves Dustin Byfuglien & Mark Stuart as having the latter play top minutes just isn’t a recipe for success for any team. The Jets lines have been shuffled a bit too with Evander Kane finally having the ball roll in his direction and Kyle Wellwood’s play improving. Alex Burmistrov played well against us back October but has been demoted to the third line now despite some strong underlying numbers. I’m not sure what that is about but it makes them a little deeper up front despite his linemates being very poor. Eric Fehr is also playing his first game as a Jet this year so be on the lookout for that even if he plays on the fourth line. What’s interesting is that both our shutdown line & defense pair did virtually nothing against the Jets last time. Now that Gleason & Allen have been split due to Harrison’s injury, I would imagine that doesn’t happen this game.

Game Notes

No bullets this time. Instead, I’m going to talk about a low-risk move that worked out in the Jets favor. That, of course, is signing Kyle Wellwood for less than $1 mil. Wellwood has always been known to be a lazy, overweight player who could never work out in the NHL but he’s actually done very well for himself since returning last season. He was signed by the San Jose Sharks in the middle of last season to give them more forward depth and he actually put up some very impressive underlying numbers. In fact, he had one of the highest balanced corsi ratings (corsi adjusted for zone starts) in the league last year but those were brushed off because he played on a good team and it was a small sample size. He’s carried that good play over into this year as he is one of the Jets top scorers, has one of the highest corsi ratings on the team, starts a good amount of his draws in the defensive zone and isn’t benefiting from too much luck. To put things simple, he’s just playing good hockey and this was a good signing by the Jets.

Overall, the Jets have become an average team in terms of shot and possession metrics over the last few months and tonight’s game against Carolina should be a somewhat even matchup now that the Canes are doing the same. I am kind of glad that Chris Mason is starting because while he has a history of playing well against Carolina, he still has not been good for the past two years.

 

Enjoy the game.

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