The Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers will both look to extend their three-game win streaks when they face off at the MTS Centre Friday night.
The Jets (9-9-2) are coming off wins against Nashville, San Jose and, most recently a 3-2 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. The Flyers (7-10-1) beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Wednesday to go with victories against Ottawa and Edmonton.
So with both teams currently playing at the top of their game, here are 5 things you’ll want to watch for in tonight’s matchup:
Much of the Flyers recent success has come from their ability to get on their opponents early.
Through their current win streak, Philadelphia has led after the first period in each of those three games, outscoring their opponents 4-0.
The Flyers have proven they can play with the lead, as they are 6-2 when leading after 20 minutes.
This could pose a problem for the Jets who have allowed the league’s fourth most first period goals to opponents this season.
“It’s up to the player to be ready to go from the start of the game,” said captain Andrew Ladd following Thursday’s practice.
“The lines that have started the [last three] games have done a great job of setting the tone and having a great first shift. From there, it’s easy from the bench to get a little momentum going and feeding off the first one.”
The Jets know that if they want to finish the game on top, it begins with a strong start.
Power play for the win
Speaking of finish, that’s something Winnipeg has had a difficult time doing on the power play so far this season.
The Jets have the league’s worst power play with a miserable 8.4 per cent success rate. The current picture: a one-for-44 drought in their past 12 games.
“It’s a big part of the game,” said Olli Jokinen. “You need to have a power play to win games.
“If you look at the top teams in the standings, they’re most likely in the top in their special teams as well. That’s the one area we need to get better, that’s for sure.”
Coach Claude Noel said he is certain his team will get the power play back on track.
“It won’t stay the last in the league,” said Noel. It’ll change.”
Asked to expand on why he was so confident, Noel said: “I just believe in the players we have that we’ll get it on the right track.”
Noel and co. will hope that shift begins against a Flyers team ranked eleventh in the league, successfully killing off 84. 9 per cent of opposing teams' power plays.
Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux has been one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers over the past three seasons.
Since 2010, only three players – Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin and Martin St. Louis – have scored more points than Giroux.
He’s coming off the worst start to a season in his career, going pointless in five straight games to open the year. He has since heated up, scoring 10 in his last 13.
Giroux scored his 300th and 301st point in a win against Ottawa Tuesday in only his 350th NHL game.
Giroux centres the Flyers top line with Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell. They’ve combined for nine points in the last three games and have been the only real threat for Philadelphia this year.
If the Jets hope to find success, it will begin with shutting down this line, starting with the captain.
Giroux isn’t the only captain leading his team. Andrew Ladd has been the backbone for the Jets in their road back to a respectable .500 record.
In the last three games, Ladd has chipped in a goal and four assists and has scored the winning goal in the shootout in the team's last two wins.
But for head coach Claude Noel, it’s not Ladd’s offensive production that allows him to take over a game and motivate his team.
“He leads best when his will to win is intact and that’s pretty hard 'cause that’s pretty demanding on a player all the time,” said Noel. “I don’t think he has to score for us to have success. When he plays with that will, that’s how he leads best.”
The Jets are 3-1 in games where Ladd finds the back of the net. Although Noel may not believe it to be the key to success for the Jets, a strong effort from his captain may just prove enough against a tired Flyers team on the tail end of a three-game road trip.
Keeping one streak, breaking another
The Jets are currently on the second-longest win streak since arriving in Winnipeg two seasons ago — winners of three straight dating back to a 5-0 win over Nashville on Nov. 8.
A win against Philly will bring the Jets within a single game of tying for the longest streak from last season, a five-game stretch in April to close out the year.
The franchise record — including the Atlanta years — is six consecutive wins, happening twice in team history (2009 and 2010). If the Jets could conquer this feat, it would go a long way both in the standings and in the seats.
Ok, now for a streak that needs breaking.
Evander Kane has now gone six games without a goal. He’s been injured in recent past but has insisted that he’s healthy. His shot production hasn’t gone down, nor has his ice time. Expect a big game from the Jets big-time player.
Prediction: 5-4 Jets
Both teams are hot right now but the edge has to go to Winnipeg.
The Flyers are playing their third game in four nights and the Jets are at an all-time high in confidence. The game stays close but the Jets edge it out in the end.