Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday storylines: The return of Carey Price

It’s a bit of a weird weekend this time around, with the NHL taking U.S. Thanksgiving off on Thursday and then jamming the schedule with 14 games last night, the busiest Friday of the year. That means just about everyone will be playing tired tonight, and the combination of fatigue and backup goalies could lead to some high-scoring games.

HNIC Game of the Night: Jets at Sharks

Heading into the season, this wouldn’t have been a game you circled as a potential matchup of the night. And sure, there are other matchups around the league that feature more star power or better teams. But this one is intriguing partly because it features two teams we haven’t quite figured out yet.

The Jets are finishing off a tough road swing that’s seen them play four games in six nights, starting in Nashville and then heading through California. So far, it’s yielded mixed results, with one/two wins in three games. But that still leaves the Jets with one of the better records in the Western Conference at 14-5-3.

We’ve been waiting for this kind of breakout for years in Winnipeg, where a talented young core has played fun-but-inconsistent hockey that’s so far produced more magazine covers declaring them future Cup champions (one) than playoff game victories (still waiting). Last week, we nudged them into our top-five power rankings for the first time, well, ever.

So it’s hard not to get excited about how it’s all coming together this year. But then you look down the list of teams the Jets have actually beaten, and aside from an admittedly impressive 7–1 win over the Penguins you see a mix of struggling contenders, question marks and outright bad teams. Maybe that’s to be expected in a parity league where almost everyone is just kind of OK, but it would be nice to see the Jets make a statement.

The Sharks may not offer that opportunity, since they’ve been up and down all year. We snuck them into the top five on a couple of occasions, too, but they’ve cooled off lately and dropped out of a playoff spot. That’s not a cause for panic quite yet, at least in what’s shaping up to be a weak Pacific Division, and the analytics types still seem to love them. But wins are wins, and right now the Sharks are in danger of moving into that mushy middle of teams nobody pays much attention to. Maybe they should already be there.

If so, then this is exactly the sort of winnable road game that a contender would march in and take. We’re still not sure that the Jets are that team, but they’ve been proving it a game at a time, and they get another chance tonight. At the very least, it may be the biggest Jets-vs.-Sharks matchup in 50 years.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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