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Onto The Hockey Stuff...The Winnipeg Jets head into Anaheim tonight where they will visit the arena where winning streaks go to die... unless you're the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are an incredible 20-0-2 on home ice this season, and are laying waste to every team that ventures into their arena. A co-worker of mine asked me today what I thought the score would be tonight, and I responded with a half-hearted "7-1" answer. However, it dawned on me that the score I gave may actually be completely wrong. I'm going on record here: the Ducks' streak ends tonight.
Paul Maurice has the Jets playing well right now. They're far from being perfect, but there seems to be a business-first attitude around these Winnipeg Jets since Maurice arrived in Winnipeg. In terms of tonight's game, the Jets will need massive games from a few players, none more than Ondrej Pavelec, but the Jets match-up pretty well with the Ducks for one reason: speed.
Make no mistake that the Ducks are big and talented. Getzlaf, Perry, Penner, Bonino, and Selanne are dangerous for the Ducks on any night this season, and all of them can use their speed and size to make things happen. But if there's one area that the Jets can exploit, it's the lack of foot-speed that the Ducks have on their blue line.
There's some speed on the Ducks' blue line in Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, but the guys who log a ton of minutes - François Beauchemin, Bryan Allen, Mark Fistric, and Ben Lovejoy - are not the most fleet of foot. If the Jets can target those players and attack with speed, it's going to cause problems for the Ducks. Paul Maurice has been trumpeting the speed of this Jets squad, so they'll have to bring it tonight in Anaheim if they want to cook Anaheim's goose.
Of course, the Ducks could simply pound the Jets into submission if they like. The Ducks have just seven players under 200lbs., and have six players that stand taller than 6'2" in height. In other words, the Ducks are a big, heavy team. The Ducks steamrolled the Vancouver Canucks last Wednesday by a 9-1 score, and followed it up with a war in Chicago that they lost 4-2 before heading into St. Louis where they won 3-2. In other words, the Ducks played some tough teams in the last week, and came away with four of six points. Not bad at all.
I expect tonight's game to be a battle. The Jets will need some excellent play from key players and, if they can grab a little luck along the way, a few bounces to go their way. While I'm not convinced that the Jets will actually lose 7-1, they still could get hammered tonight.
But I'm calling it here: the home unbeaten-in-regulation streak ends. As for a score? I can't predict that. I've never been that clairvoyant. Let's go with 3-1 with an empty-net goal for the Jets. Who knows what the score will be? What I do know that is that the Jets might be able to exploit the slow Ducks rearguards with their speed, and take advantage of a team that just battled three solid Western Conference teams.
I'm calling a Jets win. And an end to the streak!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!