After splitting a home-and-home with a decent if injury-depleted Bruins team, the Hawks take another step towards ending this miserable ass season tonight in Winnipeg, where they’ll face a Jets team that might have finally gotten its shit together, but probably hasn’t.
At present, the Jets sit in 2nd in the Central with 92 points, 8 back of Nashville and having played one fewer game, and got trounced by the Preds 3-1, with a score that wasn’t nearly reflective of how the game transpired. The Predators were up 3-0 with the game not even 10 minutes old, and still managed to put 45 shots on net in a game they could have easily sat back and played prevent during the majority of. That was the Jets third loss in a row to a decent team after falling to the Flyera and the Capitals (in OT), which were preceded by four wins against dog food in the Wings, Hurricanes, Rangers, and Devils. This will also be the Jets’ first home game in almost two weeks after having the last six on the road, so the broadcast will assuredly hammer this point repeatedly as if it’s not tired old bullshit.
The other major story coming into tonight is just how shit hot Patrik Laine is, with Tuesday’s game being the first game this month wherein he hasn’t dented the twine, going for 10 so far in March in seven games, and notching his 41st against the Caps on Monday, though Ovie pulled ahead of him in that game with two of his own to put him at 42 on the year. Sam went into detail in the spotlight, but Laine’s release is truly something to behold, and he doesn’t need a lot of time or space or even that many opportunities to convert it. In his almost two seasons in the league, Laine has been shooting at an 18.7% clip, and that’s not a statistical anomaly. He simply is that fantastic of a shooter.
Of course, he’s not the only weapon the Jets have, as their forward grouping is quite formidable featuring Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, and captain and leading scorer Blake Wheeler, whom we are told is pretty good and should be paid attention to…when healthy. However, the group has been a bit besieged by injury, as Scheifele hasn’t played since nine days ago, checking center Adam Lowry remains out, as does Mathieu Perrault, and recent addition Paul Stastny was a late scratch on Tuesday, but appears to be ready to go tonight. The same can be said for the blue line, with both Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba missing time, though Trouba could be back in tonight. All of this shuffling in and out of sick bay resulted in the Jets needing to call up something named Tucker Poolman recently on an emergency basis, and that’s probably not the best position to be in. Connor Hellebuyck will get the start tonight likely by default since Steve Mason is still out, and Michael Hutchinson was diagnosed with a concussion along with having the devil inside.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, the lineup looks essentially the same after Anthony Duclair was accidentally-on-purpose clotheselined by dick-nosed weasel and noted passenger Brad Marchand on Saturday afternoon. The top line remains in tact, and the second line actually follows the same mold of puck winner/playmaker/finisher with Hayden, Schmaltz, and DeBrincat filling out those respective roles. Having two units of exclusively left-handed and then right-handed shots probably isn’t the most optimal thing that could be done, but it’s not like there are handed-ness matchups against the other team to have to be concerned about, every one of these forwards is playing in their natural positions. On the blue line, everyone was playing with everyone at practice, so it’s anyone’s damn guess what Quenneville throws out there in front of Anton Forsberg tonight.
The Hawks’ fate is all but mathematically sealed, and realistically, so is the Jets’. They’re not going to make up 8 points in 12 games on the Preds, particularly after Tuesday’s four point swing and with all of their injuries. Similarly, they’re seven points ahead of whatever the hell it is Gabby and the Wild are doing right now, so it’s doubtful in this league that they could fuck around and lose their first round home ice in that time frame as well. So what’s happening here tonight is basically two teams with almost nothing to play for. Mid March Regular Season Hockey Fever! Catch It!
Game #71 Preview