There are three games on the NHL schedule Friday night, including a couple of Canadian teams. We give you a few things to watch out for, including one-time mentor Shea Weber meeting one-time student Seth Jones and the Winnipeg Jets desperately needing some third period leads.
A CLASH OF POWER PLAY CLANS
Remember last season when the Montreal Canadiens won their first nine games in a row? Well, it won’t be their first nine this season, but if they can manage a win over Columbus Friday night, it will give him nine wins in a row and a tidy 10-0-1 record to start the season. Not bad.
Obviously, Carey Price is a major factor in all this success, as the team crashed and burned from the moment he went down to injury last season. But the power play has also been a big improvement and don’t underestimate how important that is. Their 20 per cent conversion rate on the man advantage ranks 14th league-wide, up from a 16.2 per cent mark that was 25th in the league a year ago.
In this sense, Shea Weber has been an important influencer as (sorry to do this) his three power play goals are already one more than P.K. Subban’s total power play goals from last season. One reason Weber was so attractive to the Canadiens was his booming point shot which, so far, has paid off and helped the team in an area where they really needed to improve.
Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets have also got a significant bump on the power play and that too has been helped by a defenceman. Zach Werenski, the eighth overall pick in 2015, has eight points in his first eight NHL games this season, half of which have come on the power play.
The Grosse Pointe, Michigan native is quietly making his own case for the Calder Trophy early on as the highest scoring freshman defenceman.
“I think he is one of those guys who plays the same way no matter what level he is at,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told USA Today. “For him, it’s more about mental strength than physical skill. You can see his skating and physical strength, but really he just goes out and plays.
“On the power play, in particular, he has really taken over. He has added to our power play an element that was missing.”
So far, the Jackets have gone from a 17.3 per cent power play that ranked 21st in the league a year ago to a 35 per cent unit that is first in the league.
The crazy thing is, only five Blue Jackets players have a power play point this season: Werenski, Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno.
MENTOR WEBER AND STUDENT JONES MEET AGAIN
Not that long ago Shea Weber and Seth Jones were the present and future staples of a deep and strong Nashville Predators blue line unit. Who could have guessed that both players would have been traded?
Weber, touted as a leader for the Canadiens has come as advertised, and it’s a role Blue Jackets head coach challenged Jones to assume for his team last season. By the end of the year, Tortorella was benching Jones for long stretches to “drive home” that message and so far this year Jones has responded and been a nice complement alongside Werenski at even strength.
“I’ve had fun playing with Zach so far and (I’m) just trying to get him to play his game,” Jones told the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s going to make mistakes and so am I, but we’ve got to be there to back each other up.”
Jones doesn’t have the same power play influence as either Weber or Werenski, but he is a steady hand for a Columbus team that, on average, allows 6.1 more shots against per game than it gets. Despite that split, Jones’ CF% hovers right around the 50 per cent mark.
Both Jones and Weber lead their teams in time on ice. The student has become the master.
COMEBACK KID JETS NEED TO STOP HAVING TO COME BACK SO MUCH
The Winnipeg Jets were a popular pre-season pick to jump back into the playoffs this season. As long as the goaltending held up (mixed reviews so far) the Jets had a good-looking team with sniper Patrik Laine (and let’s not forget Kyle Connor) being added to the mix.
But with a 4-6-1 start, it’s been a bit bumpy so far.
The biggest reason for that? The Jets are having a really hard time taking a lead into the third period. And to be a successful team, you need to have those leads often.
League-wide, teams that start the third period with a lead are a combined 103-5-13. Eighteen teams have a 1.000 winning percentage when heading into the third period with an advantage on the scoreboard.
But in 11 games, Winnipeg has held the lead after two periods just twice — and both were wins.
The good thing is the’ve been the comeback kids of the NHL so far, battling back from three-goal deficits three times to earn a point, including Thursday night when they lost to the Capitals 4-3 in OT.
It’s just that this formula is not sustainable and if they keep it up, the Jets will assuredly be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Second periods have been a big problem for Winnipeg, where they have been outscored 16-4, the worst split in the league. They’re outscoring their opponents 15-7 in the third period, which ranks second-best in the league behind only the Montreal Canadiens.
The Jets play the Detroit Red Wings Friday night, who are one of the 17 NHL teams without a win when they trail heading into the third period. The bottom line here is we need to see improvement out of the Jets in the second periods of games and absolutely need to see them start third periods with the lead more often. They won’t keep coming back like they have so far. Want some context? In the three seasons prior to this one, Winnipeg had a record of 10-69-12 when trailing after two.
• With his next shutout, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard will tie Mike Richter for 10th on the all-time shutouts list among American goaltenders with 24.
• Arizona’s Radim Vrbata is three assists away from 300 for his career
• Arizona’s Shane Doan is three goals away from 300 for his career