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Myers’ frustration boils over after penalty-filled period vs. Predators

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Tyler Myers simply had enough.

And as the Jets took their eighth straight minor penalty of the second period on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators, Myers let his frustrations be known as he mockingly clapped at the referee while fellow defenseman Jacob Trouba was getting hauled off for slashing.

The parade to the penalty box didn’t sit well with anyone on the Jets, even if several of the calls were self-inflicted wounds.

Winnipeg clearly felt slighted, regardless. Four-letter pleasantries were flying everywhere on the broadcast.

Dustin Byfuglien didn’t take too kindly to the penalty box cam, hitting it with his stick while it was focused on him.

Myers’ transgression landed him a 10-minute misconduct.

The Predators couldn’t convert. Not on a single one of their power play attempts (which totalled nine by the time the game was through). The Jets, who struggled last week in Dallas after taking too many penalties in a 5-1 loss, killed off each and every penalty they took, deserved or not.

That’s quite the feat from both teams.

The Predators went on to win the game 3-0, exacting a little revenge after the Jets ended their season last year in Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Some of the mayhem seen in the second period was almost expected. The hate that began during that seven-game series and finally resurfaced in the second period with the Jets down 1-0.

A high cross-check and a late hit finally made it all boil over.

Blake Wheeler fought Mattias Ekholm. Nikolaj Ehlers dropped the gloves with Colton Sissons.

In a game where the team making the least number of mistakes would likely triumph, it was the Jets who caved first and they paid for it.

Luckily, there’s more to come this season. One of the league’s fiercest rivalries happens to be between two of its best teams. Winnipeg and Nashville will meet three more times before the season ends, and both teams are expected to end the season near the top of the Central Division.

There will be some time to cool off before they meet again in January, but it’s unlikely their hate for one another will subside much at all by then anyway.

In the meantime, the Jets need to figure out their discipline issues.

Three of their four games have featured many visits to the box. Winnipeg has been shorthanded 20 times in four games thus far. They’ve killed off 85 percent of those, sure, but if you’re taking five penalties on average per game, that nice penalty-killing rate won’t be so nice after a while.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Predators seek revenge vs. Jets after playoff failure

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Revenge may not taste as sweet as, say, getting it in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but beating the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night is probably the next best thing for the Nashville Predators.

Nashville certainly hasn’t forgotten about getting crushed 5-1 in Game 7 by the Jets in the second round this past spring. Pekka Rinne hasn’t erased the memory of getting chased inside the first 11 minutes of the first period. They likely haven’t forgotten that Winnipeg beat them three times in their own barn in the series.

Nashville was primed for another run at Lord Stanley and the Jets were coming off their first playoff wins in franchise history. Despite similar records in the regular season (the Predators held a three-point advantage 117 to 114 on the Jets), Nashville was pipped to take the series from their young pretenders in the Central Division.

Of course, history now shows that wasn’t the case. The high-flying Jets proved to be too much for the Predators, with their vaunted defense and Vezina-winning goaltender Rinne, who had a disastrous .848 save percentage in the series.

And so instead of challenging for the Cup, the Predators were sent off on an early summer few saw coming. Despite the Presidents’ Trophy, their season ended in utter failure.

Thursday night in Nashville is a chance to re-assert themselves, a chance to make the first statement on this young season and begin to piece together some redemption.

For Winnipeg, it’s their opportunity to establish a new pecking order in the Central (if that didn’t already happen in May) and show the Predators who the new top dogs are.

For both teams, it’s a good test to see how each other stacks up against, well, each other. If there’s a repeat of last year in the standings (a one-two finish in some fashion), there’s likely going to be that inevitable meeting in the postseason once again.

Both teams enter the game with similar lineups to the one they iced nearly five months ago. Two Vezina-caliber goalies will duke it out. Winnipeg’s mighty offense against Nashville’s envious backend.

Mark Scheifele (and Tyler Myers) vs. P.K. Subban.

They also have identical 2-1-0 records early in 2018-19, adding a little more to the psychological melting pot. More importantly, and forgetting about last season, the game is two points in a Central Division that appears as if it is going to be extremely tight come April.

It’s not a must win in early October, but two points now could hold significant bearing come April nonetheless. And let’s not pretend that there aren’t some bragging rights on the line. These are two very prideful teams. Egos are at stake. Competitiveness oozes.

The Preds won’t be lacking in motivation after getting blanked by the Calgary Flames 3-0 on Tuesday.

The Jets, meanwhile, are riding high after dominating the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener that same night.

Both teams are healthy.

Enjoy.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jake Allen needs to be better, but so do Blues

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There are few scenarios where Jake Allen‘s start to the 2018-19 NHL season could have gone much worse.

Allen has been slaughtered through two games, allowing 10 goals on 55 shots for a .818 save percentage and a whopping 4.91 goals-against average. Those aren’t NHL numbers. Hell, they aren’t AHL numbers either, or ECHL for that matter. Beer league goalies are stopping more pucks.

Getting the Bronx cheer in the first game of the regular season may seem harsh, but it’s not as if Blues fans are really overreacting.

Fans don’t forget and while Allen’s 2017-18 season was forgettable, it was unforgettable to fans who are keenly aware that he’s carrying a $4.35M cap hit over the next three seasons and hasn’t lived up to that kind of dough yet.

Against the Winnipeg Jets to open their season, some of the goals that found their way past Allen weren’t necessarily his fault. Allowing a breakaway on the power play was a breakdown out of Allen’s control. Allowing Kyle Connor to latch onto a puck out of the penalty box and then pass to Blake Wheeler, who wasn’t really defended, wasn’t Allen’s fault. Not stopping a Patrik Laine blast on the power play that was deflected by his own defender? Yeah, not Allen’s fault.

One could make the argument that the Winnipeg game was less on Allen and more on St. Louis as a whole. Allen played well for the first two periods and then the wheels on the Blues bus fell off in the third. The Blues allowed 13 high-danger scoring chances in the game. Winnipeg took advantage. C’est la vie.

Saturday’s game was a little different in that regard. St. Louis tightened up a bit defensively and didn’t allow as many good looks on Allen. Still, there were breakdowns and Allen became the victim.

The Blues spotted Allen a 2-0 lead, one that was relinquished. They then fought to get back a 4-3 lead after falling behind 3-2. That also wouldn’t last. Then a Jonathan Toews breakaway sealed the deal in overtime.

Allen’s numbers need to improve, one way or another. He’s 60 percent on high-danger shots through two games and 85 percent on medium ones. His 5-on-5 save percentage is .844. These aren’t good numbers. It’s a very small sample size, but you can see where improvements need to be made.

Odd-man rush or not, that’s a juicy rebound. Too juicy.

For what it’s worth, Blues coach Mike Yeo wasn’t pinning the blame on Allen after Saturday’s loss.

[Under Pressure: Jake Allen]

“We start playing. That’s it, right now,” Yeo said via NHL.com. “Let’s quit playing shinny hockey and let’s start playing real hockey. It’s correctable. It’s just a matter of us figuring out how long we want it to take before we decide if we want to be a good team or be a team that plays the game without purpose and as far as doing the little things and things it takes to win hockey games.”

That truth of the matter here is Allen is going to take the brunt of the blame at the moment. His poor year last season didn’t do him any favors, and an outsider looking at St. Louis’ first two games would suggest that the goalie needs to stop the puck a little more.

The Blues need Allen to stop the pucks he should and some of those that are high-percentage goals most of the time. St. Louis went out and tried to bolster their team during the offseason, but at the end of the day, if goals keep going in, it won’t matter how many improvements they made in front of Allen.

At this point, both Allen and the Blues need to be better. St. Louis has converted on just two of their 16 high-danger chances this season.

Time will tell if one or the other emerges as the real problem. In the meantime, you’d have to imagine that Chad Johnson, who was acquired in the offseason to play second fiddle to Allen, sees some time going forward.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Patrik Laine looks to continue to own Stars

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The Dallas Stars must hate Patrik Laine at this point and groan when they see the Winnipeg Jets on the schedule.

That hate doesn’t stem from the fact that he plays on a Central Division rival. There’s always going to be a certain level of dislike amongst divisional opponents, both of whom are set to meet once again on Saturday night in Dallas.

No. That hatred brews from Laine being able to do what he wants, when he wants against the Stars who, if history is any indication, know there is little, if anything, they can do about it.

Laine has simply eviscerated the Stars over his first two seasons in the NHL. In nine games, the 44-goal man from a year ago has notched 14 goals and added four assists — a two-point per game clip against a team that boasts a pretty good defense.

It gets worse, too. The domination hasn’t just come five-on-five. Five of those goals have come on the power play — Laine’s bread and butter — and five more of those goals have turned into game winners.

Laine has accounted for nearly half of the 31 goals the Jets have scored against Dallas since he entered the league in 2016-17. Hell, he’s nearly matching the 19 goals Dallas has scored against the Jets during that time all by himself.

He’s taken 34 shots against the Stars in his career and has scored on 41.2 percent of them. That’s Laine’s second-highest shooting percentage against any team (he’s 41.7 percent against the Toronto Maple Leafs).

In his typical, impassive fashion, Laine seemed unfazed by his success.

“It’s just another game for us,” Laine told the team’s website. “Every game is different. It doesn’t matter how many goals you have scored before. It’s always a new game and that’s how we are treating this one too.”

From trashing the Vancouver Canucks off the ice to thrashing the Stars on it, there’s not much that Laine can’t do these days it seems.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Simplicity, consistency key for one of the NHL’s most unheralded lines

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WINNIPEG — Paul Maurice says he saw it long before the underlying metrics pointed out that he owned one of the NHL’s top lines.

And we’re not talking Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

When you think of elite lines in the NHL, there are several that come quickly to mind.

Lines with Rantanen and MacKinnon, Matthews and Nylander, Stamkos and Kucherov, Couturier and Giroux and many others spring to mind.

What you wouldn’t expect to see is a line known more for, at least through an observer’s eye, a grinding style that’s tasked with shutting down opposing team’s top lines, being called one of the top 10 lines in the NHL based on advanced metrics.

So it was surprising to see Adam Lowry’s line with Andrew Copp and Brandon Tanev in a story done over the summer by the folks at Broad Street Hockey.

Devoid of household names around the NHL, the line affectionately known as the ‘TLC’ line in Winnipeg, has nevertheless exhibited elite attributes as a trio.

Maurice knew who I was talking about long before I finished my preamble about the line in question.

“I know there was a stretch of time where — and I don’t have the exact dates — they ran top four in the NHL for chances-for based on a certain definition of chances-for, which is a really high number,” Maurice said. “What’s unique about that line is offensive zone time and chances for, and that’s why I think they’re so effective.”

Maurice pointed out that his ‘shutdown’ line is spending most of the time in the other team’s offensive zone. Given the competition they’re thrown over the boards to play against, it’s remarkable.

“Exactly,” Maurice said.

* * *

Broad Street’s story used several metrics to come up with their list of lines, added some parameters on how long the line had to have played together to get a sample size worthy of being compared, and then let the numbers tell the story.

That story showed that the Lowry line accounted for a 66.67 percent goals-for percentage, meaning the Jets accounted for more goals with the line on the ice than it did against with the same unit on the ice. The bare minimum aim here is 50 percent. As you can see, the TLC line was much higher.

In terms of possession numbers, there was no better line in the NHL than Winnipeg’s trio with 60.56 percent. That is to say that, simply, the line outshot their opponents.

Using the numbers Broad Street compiled, no other line topped 60 percent. They also were best-in-show when it came to expected goals-for at 62.28 percent, meaning the Jets were more likely than not outscore their opponents with the TLC line on the ice.

Winnipeg’s unequivocal top line of Scheifele, Connor and Wheeler? They didn’t crack the Top 10.

It’s nothing magical, according to Lowry.

Lowry is the guy in the dressing room you go when you want a scouting report on the team in town for a game or just insight on any player in the league. He knows other teams lines and their tendencies. He’s prepared.

As complex as some of the numbers might be, Lowry simplifies what his line does right and why perhaps the underlying numbers are what they are for his line.

“You look at Schiefele’s line, for example, they’re not getting the third and fourth chances off the rebound because they’re goalscorers, they’re in the other team’s zone and they’re one and done, you know?” Lowry said. “They could have a lower Corsi, let’s say they’ve given up seven shots and only had three for but have scored on two of them.

Lowry says the predictable play of his line feeds into how effective his line is. Interdependency between the three is high.

“We might not necessarily have that high-end skill, but it makes our game so much simpler to read,” Lowry said. “I know there are about three options when Copp has the puck about the way it’s going to go. I know with Andrew and Brandon, we don’t have to be the fastest but we’re going to play faster because we know, generally, what we’re going to do. It makes us going to the right spots easier because they’re really smart players.”

Copp likes to call it consistent, but he says it means the same thing as Lowry saying predictable.

“It’s more chemistry than anything else,” Copp said, admitting there’s no way to really account for what that means. “I think it comes from consistent play. You look at Schiefele and Wheeler and Kyle Connor. There’s consistency. Our line, we’re consistent in our routes, in our play and our work ethic. We’re not trying to stray or do anything secretive.”

Copp says if they’re the resulting high numbers comes down to how it happens.

“It’s constant pressure in their zone,” he said. “It’s how good we can be defensive that leads to that, too. We’re not Nikita Kucherov creating chances, but we defend so hard and so well that it leads to a lot of opportunities.”

A simpler game?

“I’d say more direct than simple,” Copp said.

Tanev agrees. Given the lines consistency on the ice, it’s not surprising it spills into the dressing room and in front of the media.

“We know where one another is going to be, and that makes it so much easier in the offensive zone,” Tanev said. “We trust one another. It makes us hard to play against.”

Lowry says analytics have their worth. In the same breath, however, when he jumps over the boards, he’s not thinking about trying to even up a lopsided Corsi rating.

“You just can’t think like that, it will throw you off your game,” he said. “We’re going to have good numbers based on good play.

“It’s important, though. If you’re a bad Corsi player or whatever, you’re giving up a lot of high-danger chances, there are probably areas to improve on.”

* * *

Maurice says his team is not a Corsi team.

He says there’s a threshold when it comes to how much he wants his team to be shooting the puck, but as an example, he says he doesn’t want Patrik Laine shooting a puck he doesn’t want to shoot.

“I do like the idea of controlling the puck,” Maurice said, adding that philosophies among coaches across the league differ. “Some shoot everything and I mean shoot everything. I believed in that for a long time, but then the players here changed.”

Maurice then asked his own question.

“What’s the value of even?” he said, adding that he knows someone is going to mock him for it.

“If Adam Lowry goes out and he’s even and Mark Scheifele goes out and he’s even, is it the same value?” Maurice said, nevertheless. “For me, the answer is no.

“If Adam goes out an he’s even and he’s playing against the other team’s best, he’s not done less than you would have hoped offensively, but he’s done more defensively.

“Now, if Scheifele goes out and he’s even, he’s probably done what you thought he would do defensively but far less offensively. There has to be a different value.”

Maurice said when he got to Winnipeg, the analytics crew they used looked at how their players compared to the top two offensive players in the league.

“Our numbers were terrible, which tells you don’t have a consistent line to play or a group to play against their best,” Maurice said.

The remedy that started the turn around for the Jets was putting Andrew Ladd with Bryan Little and Michael Frolik, and putting Scheifele with Wheeler.

“We had a pretty good run,” Maurice said as a result.

The Jets made the playoffs in 2014-15, Maurice’s first full year behind the bench, for the first time since the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

The progress from there has turned Winnipeg into a team that won 52 games last year and reached the Western Conference Final.

More importantly, it’s helped to the Jets grow into a Stanley Cup contender.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck