Monday 6 April 2015

In Playoff Mode

You can't tell me you didn't enjoy tonight's game between the Wild and Jets. That was as close to a playoff-like atmosphere in Xcel Energy Center as we've seen this season as both teams battled for the all-important two points in the standings. Devyn Dubnyk, starting his 37th straight game in the Wild net, was solid, but he was outplayed by Ondrej Pavelec in the Winnipeg net as the Jets skated to the 2-0 victory! And thanks to the Canucks doing the Jets a solid by defeating the Kings in the shootout, the Jets are back into a playoff spot!

The Jets, historically, have not done very well in the second-half of a back-to-back set of games, and playing against St. Louis will mean grabbing a point or two won't be a walk in the park. Jake Allen will start for the Blues, so it will be the same idea as tonight's game against Dubnyk. Both are big goalies, so getting them to move and not get set in the crease will be paramount.

The Blues are going to want to beat up the Jets a little since they may not be fresh, so expect a lot of mucking. Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen will be out of the lineup for the Blues, so a chunk of scoring is on the sideline. Expect the Blues to want to create puck battles, muck it up in the corners, and disrupt the Jets' speed and breakouts all night long.

That being said, the Jets did a lot of great stuff tonight against Minnesota.

The Jets were active in eliminating space against players receiving passes, and they'll need to do the same against St. Louis. I've been particularly hard on Mark Stuart the last few weeks for his allowing soft zone entries, but he was standing players up at the blue line and giving nothing in terms of space out in the slot. I was very impressed with Stuart tonight as he looked like the tenacious defenceman he once was.

TSN's Gary Lawless was on TV in an intermission, filling the room with hot air about how rusty Ben Chariot might be. Chariot, who was out with a hand injury, didn't look rusty at all outside of a couple of instances where he needed to adjust his game speed. As the game progressed, he looked quite comfortable alongside Tyler Myers, and it's great to see him back playing with the same confidence he had before his injury.

Along with his Chariot prediction, Lawless also missed the mark on Adam Pardy and Jay Harrison as these two veterans have been more than reliable coming out of the press box all season long. I actually would like to see Pardy stay in the lineup as he makes the penalty kill so much better with his reach, but I understand that's a tough thing to do with Enstrom and Byfuglien soon to return to the lineup.

Harrison, for his part, just plays tough and honest. He takes no crap, is rarely caught out of position, makes safe plays with the puck, and will give you a lunchpail effort every time he's on the ice. It's tough watching Harrison be the seventh or eighth defenceman on this team, but he's a valuable player in the Jets' scheme as he never seems to miss a beat despite sitting out for stretches at a time. He's a true professional, and he plays like one at every opportunity given to him.

Overall, this team has the potential to go 3-0 on this Central Division road trip. It would go a long way in helping their playoff hopes, and the Jets have their own destiny in their hands. Win and you're in. It's that simple.

If the Jets can play against St. Louis tomorrow as they did tonight, it will be Los Angeles and Calgary chasing them in this race for the final playoff spot. The Jets, to their credit, appear to be in playoff mode already!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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