And just like that, we're halfway through the road trip! Only three more games until the Nashville Predators make it back home. The second half of the road trip begins Tuesday night in Winnipeg, where they play the Jets for the second time this season.
The Winnipeg Jets
Since our last meeting, (a 2-0 win by the Predators) the Jets are 5-2-1 in 8 games, including back-to-back 1-0 wins over the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks. They now sit right in the middle of the Central Division, and are probably pretty happy to be there. Perception is everything... the Blackhawks are tied with them at 13 points and Second City is livid. The Jets aren't resting on their laurels, but they aren't burning them either.
The Jets have found nice combos at the top of their forward lines with Andrew Ladd/Bryan Little/Michael Frolik and Evander Kane/Mark Scheifele/Blake Wheeler, but their bottom two lines have been non-existent. While the top two lines have 26 combined points, the bottom two lines have 7 combined points. And that's with Evander Kane just recently returning from a knee injury. So, offensive depth is an issue. But they have played great defensive hockey, as they sit 8th in the league at 2.08 goals allowed per game. Credit their defense for blocking shots (they blocked 30 in the 1-0 win vs. the Blackhawks) and Ondrej Pavelec for stopping the ones they don't block. Pavelec has a decent .921 save percentage through 11 games.
The Jets are likely going to play a very similar game to what the Predators have been used to playing over the years: solid defensive hockey that relies on quality scoring chances and above average goal-tending play in order to keep games close and hopefully steal a win. With the Predators rolling in on a high note after beating the Canucks on Sunday night (not to mention the accumulating travel hours over the past week) this could easily be a mid-week trap game for us.
The Nashville Predators
While Filip Forsberg demanded the spotlight on Sunday night, a couple of Predators quietly had not-so-hot nights. Seth Jones had a less than stellar 44% even-strength Corsi despite him and Victor Bartley getting 100% of their starts in the offensive zone. He did have some nice plays... but most of them were needed due to a poor decision or defensive mistake only moments before. More than once did he mistime his passes with Bartley or misread an outlet to a wing. All of this can be forgiven, I think, because of the Anton Volchenkov suspension. He needs #20 out there with him, and I don't mean Ryan Suter. As Volchenkov still has 3 games to go in his suspension, Jones will have to find some immediate chemistry with Bartley.
If you look at the link above, you will see another player surprisingly at the bottom of the Corsi % list: Mike Ribeiro. Anyone watching the game live could see that Ribeiro appeared frustrated in what was clearly an off night. In fact, by the end of the game Colin Wilson had replaced him on the top line. I think we can forgive Ribeiro for having an off night... he certainly hasn't had many.
Aside from that, the Predators looked energized. They seem to have moved on from Friday night's 3rd period debacle in Calgary, which is good news. Pekka Rinne looks in control, James Neal is James Neal, the Roy/Cullen/Smith line is bringing it, and Shea Weber is punching folks again. Who needs a power-play??
Reasons To Watch
1. You won't have to stay up as late to watch this game.
Carter Hutton bench interviews. Update: Pekka Rinne bench interviews? (Hutton getting the start)
3. Occasional Canadian idioms.
4. Olli Jokinen's facial expressions.
Music For Your Pre-Game Enjoyment
The Weakerthans tried to out-irony all the indie rock bands out there by penning this hatred of Winnipeg. I think they succeeded.
And finally, some important details:
Tonight's game will be televised on FS-TN and radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7pm!