December 11 – Day 65 – Which fly higher, Jets or Hawks?

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Nashville Predators exacted revenge on the team that beat them a couple days ago by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1.  They may have scored two goals in the third period, but for most of the game they road the success of the three goals in the first 20 minutes.

Second Star of the Game James Neal opened the scoring late in the seventh minute of the first period after being assisted by Shea Weber and Mike Ribeiro.  Nashville doubled their lead almost nine minutes later exactly, which came to be the game-winner, when Third Star Craig Smith, assisted by Viktor Arvidsson (his first assist of the season), slid a backhand past Scott Darling.  Nashville‘s final goal of the period was scored  at the 16:33 mark during a power play when Filip Forsberg flipped a wrister into the net after being assisted by Roman Josi and Calle Jarnkrok.  The 3-0 lead held not into the first intermission, but also the second.

Patrick Kane scored the lone goal of the evening for the Hawks and extended his point streak to 24 straight games in the sixth minute of the third period after being assisted by Duncan Keith, the 350th helper of his regular-season career.  Neal scored his second of the night almost 10 minutes later, unassisted.  The final goal of the game was a short-handed empty netter, fired by Eric Nystrom, to set the score at the 5-1 final.

First Star Pekka Rinne (12-7-5) earned the victory after saving 36 of 37 shots faced (97.3%), while Chicago keeper Darling (2-3-2) takes the loss after stopping only 29 of 33 (87.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 20-9-5, still favoring the home squad by 15 points.

The hockey weekend gets started this Friday evening with seven matchups on the schedule.  The first two games get started at 7 p.m. eastern (Detroit at New Jersey and Los Angeles at Pittsburgh [SN1 and TVAS2]), followed 90 minutes later by two more games (Winnipeg at Chicago and Philadelphia at Dallas).  Beginning at 9 p.m. are Minnesota and Arizona, followed half an hour later by the New York Rangers visiting Edmonton.  Finally, Carolina visits Anaheim for this evening’s nightcap, which gets started at 10 p.m. eastern.

Winnipeg at Chicago is the only divisional matchup of the evening, while Los Angeles at Pittsburgh represents the only game between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs tonight.  A divisional matchup is always fun, so we’ll head back to the United Center with the Hawks and catch them playing the Jets.

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Winnipeg enters the game after beating Columbus 6-4 at the MTS Centre last night.  Mathieu Perreault was responsible for the eventual game winner at the 7:36 mark of the third, although Cam Atkinson did all he could by scoring two goals to get within a tally of the high-flying Jets before Blake Wheeler notched an empty netter.

So far this season, the Jets have had to rely on a strong offense to compensate for poor play on the other end of the ice, which may explain why they are currently sitting outside the playoff picture.

That offense has notched 82 goals so far this season (led by Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler’s 10 goals each), eight tallies over the league average.  What’s surprising about this success has been that the Jets have only shot the puck 814 times (led by Dustin Byfuglien’s 93), a number that trails the league average.  Due to that though, Winnipeg‘s 9.3% shooting percentage exceeds that of the league average.

Another oddity about Winnipeg‘s offensive success is it hasn’t relied on the power play.  The Jets have only notched 14 goals on 89 opportunities, giving them a 15.73% that trails the league average by almost 3.5%.

The strong offense has been necessary for the 89 goals given up this season by Ondrej Pavelec (5-6-1) and co.  Even though Jacob Trouba has 57 blocks to his credit, 844 shots have still made it to net, of which a reasonable 91.1% have been saved.  Should the Jets want to make a playoff push this season, they will need to find another defender to strengthen the blue line.

As the Hawks were just featured yesterday, you can read an analysis of their game here.

The Jets and Hawks have played twice so far this season, with both earning a victory on their home ice.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (13 wins [tied for fourth in league] and two shutouts [tied for sixth in the league]) & Kane (44 points [leads league], 26 assists [tied for league lead] and 18 goals [second in league]) and Winnipeg‘s Wheeler (28 points [tenth in league]).

Although Chicago lost and Winnipeg won last night, I do not think that Winnipeg will be able to stop Kane in the United Center.  Expect Chicago to win and Kane’s streak to continue another game.