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Jets look to turn possession into offence

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – Simply, the Winnipeg Jets will need to start creating some “simpler, uglier things” on offence to get back in the win column.

That according to the head coach, who, after a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, took heed of a disturbing trend in the possession game.

As Maurice pointed out post-game, two-thirds of the Jets’ offence didn’t make it to the net. Of their 61 total shot attempts, 20 missed the cage, another 20 drifted wide, and only 21 landed on target.

“That’s an area that we can improve,” Maurice said. “I don’t know if ‘drastically’ too strong a word, but there’s a bit of a theme.

“There were only a handful of times looking back at the video that we thought we should have shot that puck, in terms of it being a good scoring chance. We didn’t pass up a lot of pucks from the slot to the outside trying to make a better play. But we’ve had this two or three times this year, where only a third of our shot attempts get to the net, and that’s a number that concerns you. It’s as much at that point the focus on the mentality of what you’re doing with the puck, prior to the decision
to shoot it. We’re just waiting too long, waiting for something to develop.

“In terms of how we start offence, I think that’s an area we can improve – putting the puck on the net to start your game, to start that mentality, that focus. We want to be able to make plays …
but I think we’re looking a little too long.”

The Jets will now embark on a three-game road trip, beginning tomorrow in Washington, DC. The Capitals are coming off a 1-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, with Braden Holtby authoring the shutout with 33 big saves. Holtby has now won four straight dating back to Nov. 12. His last loss came on Nov. 10 when he allowed just one goal in a setback to the Detroit Red Wings. The Saskatoon native has a .926 save percentage and a 1.88 goals-against average, second to the league-leading Henrik Lundqvist, who’s on pace for a career year with a GAA of 1.74.

Holtby and Lundqvist are tied at the top with 12 wins apiece.

Offensively, the Capitals – who currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division with a 14-5-1 record – are one of the league’s top teams.

As usual when these two teams meet, the story (and the attention from the media) revolves around the Great 8, Alexander Ovechkin. “Why wouldn’t he?” Maurice quipped. Ovechkin scored his 484th career goal in a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars last Thursday, surpassing Hall of Famer Sergei
Fedorov for the most goals by a Russian-born player in NHL history.

He has 10 goals and 19 points this season, but is coming off a quiet night versus Edmonton.

Talent aside, the Capitals look a bit different than they have in the past, developing a more structured defensive game that has ultimately led to their success this year.

On average, they’ve allowed fewer than 27 shots per game, and have allowed fewer than 30 in 16 of their past 18 outings overall. On top of that, they’re one of the league leaders in penalty kill percentage, thwarting more than 85 percent of opposing power plays.

The Jets know they’re going to have their hands full when the puck drops tomorrow at Verizon Center.

“There’s lots of confidence in their group offensively, but they defend very, very well,” Maurice said. “What they’ve done well is take a group that has a very high skill level and you’ve got them to buy into a bit of a grinding game. The power play has clearly been a strength of theirs for a lot of
years, but they’ve got a good, solid team game going.”

– Ryan Dittrick,

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