Game Time: 7:30PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Anti-Manifesto: Arctic Ice Hockey
For the second time in five days, the Winnipeg Jets will visit the United Center to take on the Hawks on the heels of a back to back. Only this time, the Hawks will be coming off a playing a game last night as well, and that term is used loosely.
Last night in The Peg the Jets jumped on Torts’ Bob-less Jackets early, taking a 2-0 lead before most people in the rink had gotten halfway through their first beer or taken their fourth pull off their nippy bottle of Yukon Jack or whatever the hell it is Manitobans drink up there. Though the Jackets would pull things to within 3-2 after 40 minutes, the Jets once again pulled away before the period was half over and whatever comeback the Jackets tried to mount was turned away by as yet unblemished-in-the-loss column Connor Hellebuyck, despite giving up more than a single goal for the first time.
As such, the Devil Inside Michael Hutchinson will once again try to be conjured this evening on the west side. After winning the Bruce “Cy” Chen award last year for coming out of nowhere to go 3-0-1 against the Hawks with a sparkling .971 save percentage on UC ice, Hutchinson was finally was pierced on Sunday despite the instructions of “Don’t Change” from Paul Maurice and his staff. Having not played since Sunday, he’s had time to Meditate on his last performance, as well as his season on the whole where he’s struggled mightily at even strength with just a .903 save percentage in those situations. But he’s clearly got the talent to force Hawks’ forwards to cry Bitter Tears, and has shown to thrive against the Hawks.
It’s the same story for the skaters of the Jets as well, who are big and fast and like to wall off smaller opponents. However one of their more diminutive forwards, Mathieu Perrault had himself quite a night last night with a goal and 3 assists, and leads the team with 19 helpers. Perrault has been somewhat of a possession dynamo for the Jets, carrying a 58.7% share at evens, where 15 of his 23 points have come from. The top line of Wheeler, Little, and Ladd had a rough go of things here on Sunday with Wheeler and Ladd being on the ice for all three goals against.
The Jets’ blue line is a decent mix of size and mobility, with the mountainous Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers awaiting forwards in the corners. Even Jacob Trouba is no shrinking violet at 6’2″, 200 lbs. Only Toby Enstrom lacks serious heft, and he’s likely the Jets’ most positionally sound defender, aided by his comically long stick which he visibly chokes up on for shooting. Mark Stuart is large, and an ornery immobile turd.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they will get a chance to correct whatever that was last night. Or at least the first half of it before score effects kicked in and they began pressing. Marko Dano has been sent down again after once again not providing much while not having a consistent slot in the lineup. There has been no corresponding call up yet.
With no skate today it stands to reason that the lineup will remain the same with the exception of Corey Crawford in net. Crawford was solid against Winnipeg and exceptional against Nashville before his scheduled night off last night, so the hope is that he’s worked through whatever lateral sluggishness that was affecting him intermittently through November.
The story is the same as it always is with the Jets because the keep trotting out the same core roster that has won zero playoff games as a franchise even dating back to Atlanta. They’ll try to keep the Hawks to the outside, and pursue deep into the zone on forechecking dump ins. But there’s not a lot of lateral creativity here, and if the Hawks can find space behind forecheckers for breakouts to hit the neutral zone with speed, they should be able to get around the long reaches of the defensemen, who could have very well already gone rogue into the offensive zone themselves anyway.
This month is home heavy and the Hawks need to start taking advantage of it. And if this upcoming stretch of schedule doesn’t bust Toews and Hossa out of their even strength doldrums, the winter begins looking mighty bleak.