Interesting tidbit this morning from the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, who notes that the Winnipeg Jets “have the worst team save percentage in the NHL in their last 20 games (.881).”
Not surprisingly, the Jets won just eight of those games (and only five in regulation). As a consequence, they’ve seen their playoff chances fall from around 93 percent at the All-Star break to just 46.3 percent today, per Sports Club Stats.
Rookie Michael Hutchinson, such a pleasant surprise earlier in the season, has really been struggling. His save percentage in February was a lowly .898. And it’s been even lower in March, just .845 in four appearances.
That has many wondering if coach Paul Maurice should start turning more to much-maligned veteran Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 15 of 16 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 win in Tampa Bay.
“This hasn’t been an easy week,” Pavelec said afterward, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it. What happened in St. Louis, before the goal…
… I felt really good in that game. That thing happened at a bad time. After that, I didn’t know if I was even going to get another chance to play. I was trying to put it behind me. But it was in my head, for sure. You can say whatever you want, but it’s there. So you just try to put it behind you. It wasn’t going away. Maybe now it has.”
The Jets have a couple of tough home games this week, against a desperate San Jose team Tuesday and a very strong St. Louis club Thursday.
We’ll have to wait and see how Maurice handles the goaltending duties going forward. But if the Jets end up missing the playoffs again, and it’s again due in the large part to the goaltending, expect plenty of questions for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who went into the season with a starter that hasn’t been good in a number of years and a totally unproven rookie as the backup.
Kucherov was assessed a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct during the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 Jets victory.
You can see the hit here:
Jacob Trouba jumped in and received a minor penalty for roughing and misconduct on the play.
“He gets to do that,” said Jets’ coach Paul Maurice of Trouba. “We put our gloves back on and drop the puck. There’s nothing else left. I don’t think that’s a decision. I don’t think anybody sees that and then thinks through the next 30 seconds to two minutes. It’s just on.
“Tough pill to swallow, [Toby] goes down and [Trouba] gets 12 minutes worth of penalties.”
Enstrom returned late in the game.
“It’s huge, not just to get him back on the ice in the game and preserve the win, but to know that he’s not going to be out for the next 3-4 weeks with a hit from behind like that,” said Maurice. “That could’ve just as easily been a defenseman done for the season.”
For a while there, it looked like Nikita Kucherov might have made the difference for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Some would counter that he eventually did so for the Winnipeg Jets, instead.
Kucherov scored his 26th goal of 2014-15 in the third period to finally break the ice in Saturday’s game, yet his major penalty for boarding Tobias Enstrom opened the door for Winnipeg to tie the contest and eventually win 2-1.
Here’s video of the check:
Enstrom returned late in the contest, and some argue that the Jets blueliner put himself in a vulnerable position on the check, for whatever that’s worth. Kucherov described the situation as an accident:
Kucherov called his hit an accident. "It happened so fast."
It’s probably not totally fair to pin things on Kucherov, really, especially since it was such a close game before he scored his goal and took that penalty.
Regardless, the bottom line is that Drew Stafford scored the tying tally on the power play and Blake Wheeler notched the game winner.
One other sure thing: the Jets moved back into the West’s final wild card spot … at least as of this writing. The Jets now have 80 points with 69 games played while the Los Angeles Kings are at 79 points in 67 contests (with their 68th just underway against the Nashville Predators).
Perhaps Ondrej Pavelec feels a touch amused by this situation? During the same week that he gave up a turning point goal, he saw the opposing team take a self-destructive penalty to help his team win.
“I was trying to put it behind me. But it was in my head, for sure. You can say whatever you want but it’s there." #NHLJets Ondrej Pavelec
Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.
Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.
Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi
Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack
Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward
Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth
Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy
Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott
Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith
Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov
Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick
Jets’ coach Paul Maurice said the club expects to know more about Myers’ injury by Tuesday when he is checked out in Winnipeg.
“Some injuries take a few days before they settle down and before you can get a real good handle on where he’ll be going forward,” said Maurice per the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe.
Postma has been a healthy scratch in 27 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 8.
“Obviously it’s a tough one to go through, not only physically but mentally,” said Postma of being a scratch. “Getting that opportunity to be back in the lineup is awesome and I’m excited to be part of it.
“A big part of this game is confidence. Some days you have it, some you don’t. I have to have confidence in myself, know I’m here for a reason.”
The 26-year-old has two goals and six points to go along with a plus-2 rating while averaging 13:55 in ice time in 41 games this season.
He is expected to begin Saturday’s game paired with Mark Stuart.