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Game 55 Preview: Winnipeg Jets @ Ottawa Senators

The Jets fly into Ottawa for a Saturday afternoon matinée matchup

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

With the losing streak over after blanking the Ducks, the Sens have to gear up for a completely different opponent in the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.

As is the norm this season, injuries continue to be an issue. Jack Rodewald is the latest casualty, suffering a lower-body injury that will keep him out at least two weeks. Forward Darren Archibald was called up this morning, but as the baby Sens played last night, I wonder if he’ll get in the lineup. We’ll project 11-7 for now while we wait for word from Guy Boucher on the starting goaltender, and whether Archibald will lineup on the fourth line:

Dzingel - Duchene - Ryan
Tkachuk - White - Stone
Smith - Pageau - Paajarvi
Balcers - Tierney

Chabot - DeMelo
Lajoie - Ceci
Borowiecki - Jaros
Harpur

Nilsson (starter)
Anderson

Meanwhile, here’s how we expect the Jets to lineup, with backup Laurent Brossoit in goal:

Connor - Scheifele - Wheeler
Laine - Little - Roslovic
Perreault - Lowry - Tanev
Lemieux - Copp - Appleton

Morrow - Trouba
Chariot - Byfuglien
Kulikov - Myers

Brossoit (starter)
Hellebuyck

Extras: Ehlers (inj.), Morrissey (inj.)

Game Notes

  • With 71 points — one up on Nashville but 16 up on the Canucks/Blues for the second Wild Card spot — the Jets have the privilege of not having to worry too much about the teams behind them, and rather, focus on bettering themselves through the last third of the season.
  • At the NHL level, the Sens are currently less injured than the Jets, who are missing top-six forward Nikolaj Ehlers and top-four defenceman Josh Morrissey. Morrissey, in particular, has really established himself this year — setting a career-high in points in 30+ less games. I don’t think there’s a bigger drop-off in quality of defenceman who are left-handed to the ones that are right-handed on the same team than what currently goes on in Winnipeg
  • To me, Winnipeg (like Boston), has succeeded with integrating young players throughout the lineup, surrounded by quality, productive veterans. Three of their top-six forwards are under-23 (Laine, Connor, Roslovic), while the three forwards aged 30 or over 30+ are on-pace or have already exceeded 40+ points (Perreault, Little, Wheeler).
  • Guy Boucher was asked about the penalty kill by the media yesterday and had this to say: “November 14th was the date that we changed what we were doing, because we adapted and we didn’t have the defensive core to do what we were doing at the beginning. What were doing at the beginning what Arizona’s been doing — and they’re at the top at the league so we know what we wanted was good — but you always have to adapt to your personnel. By the time we figured out that are defensive core wasn’t ready for that, we flipped to another way of playing, and since Nov 14 we’ve been really good (I think before last night we were 7th in the league since Nov. 14) so what we have been doing [since then] has been good. Now, having added Pageau there, again, has to do with personnel. It always has to do with personnel. Every system works and every system doesn’t work. That’s how it is, it depends on what you got, and you have to figure out things and try things until you know what’s best for the team. Sometime you’re lucky and you got it right away, sometimes it takes much longer to figure it out. But anytime you get players who are experts in what you’re asking, your efficiency goes way up. Our power play is good, but we don’t have the outside one-timer guys that would give us another look, so there’s different things that our second PP is missing some shots on that. So the moment you add on some expertise to what you’re doing, it’s good.”
  • Let’s explore that briefly using some quantitative metrics pulled from publicly available sources (Corsica and NHL.com). First, looking at PK% — you can see what Boucher’s talking about in terms of improvement. If we just went by this metric alone, one could reasonably assume that whatever combination of tactical and personnel changes has worked at that the PK is markedly better. I included raw goals against for those who were curious, but let’s explore the “per 60” metrics because the ice-time is different for these two collections of dates. In terms of CA/60 and GA/60 — the same difference appears: the post-Nov 14 PK performs better at limiting shot attempts and presumably, that has led to the reduced goals against. However, the quality of scoring chances (xGA/60) and save percentage metrics tell a different story. Here, it looks like the Sens “new” PK has allowed more dangerous scoring opportunities to opposition powerplays, and the main driver of the goals being down — and hence, the PK% improvement — is that Anderson, Nilsson, Hogberg and co. have put up a sparkling 0.903 save percentage over that time frame. So far, the highest full season save percentage belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning (0.910%) while the lowest are the Carolina Hurricanes (0.819%) — the median being Columbus’ 0.862%. Yes, it’s within the realm of possibility that the Sens’ netminders can keep this up, and a more in-depth analysis could look at Anderson and Nilsson’s PKSV% over the course of their careers and attempt to estimate that. But a more rudimentary guess would have me betting that the Sens are more likely to see that save percentage plummet back to the middle of the pack — similar to their “old” PK — and with it, more goals, and a worse PK%. For those that are wondering if the Sens suppressing of shot attempts (CA/60) may be enough to buffer the goals from happening, know that the median team (NYR) gives up 93.3 shots per 60, while New Jersey and Carolina are up at around 79.9. My guess? It’s not enough.

Here are our usual stats, courtesy of NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick.

Player Stats

Ottawa Senators Winnipeg Jets
Ottawa Senators Winnipeg Jets
-- Player # Player #
Goals Matt Duchene 24 Mark Scheifele 27
Assists Mark Stone 31 Blake Wheeler 36
Points Mark Stone 54 Blake Wheeler 65
Shots Thomas Chabot 182 Patrik Laine 182
TOI/GP Thomas Chabot 24:00 Dustin Byfuglien 24:32