Winnipeg Jets (7-4-1) vs.Florida Panthers (Not Good)
Location: Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland
Puck Drop: 2:00 P.M.
Where to watch: NBCSN
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The Panthers are in Helsinki playing a 2:00 p.m. home game against their former Southeast Division rival Winnipeg Jets as part of the NHL Global Series on National TV. That’s right Panther fans, the entire country has the opportunity to watch the Cats today at 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday. Hope they took the day off because this is the Panthers only appearance on NBC Sports this season. Boy that takes a minute to process but here we are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why these two teams were selected to represent the NHL in Finland. Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine are arguably the two best Finnish born players in the NHL and certainly two of the most popular players in Finland. This is actually the second time the Panthers have traveled to Helsinki to play games as they opened the season in 2009 against Frank Rekas’ beloved Chicago Blackhawks. The Panthers split that series in 2009 but are looking to pick up all 4 points over the next 24 hours against the Jets.
The Jets came into the season as a Stanley Cup favorite after making it to the Western Conference finals last season before bowing out to the Vegas Golden Knights. Their start has been sub-par compared to their expectations but they have won 5 of their last 8 and sit in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Their lineup is extremely balanced where all four lines can score on you and even their defense pitches in on offense.
Jets to Watch
Mark Scheifele 12 GP 6G 6A 12P
Kyle Connor 12GP 6G 5A 11P
Blake Wheeler 12GP 2G 9A 11P
Dustin Byfuglien 10GP 2G 5A 7P
Patrik Laine 12 GP 2G 3A 5P
Nikolaj Ehlers 12GP 1G 3A 4P
What is so scary about the Jets is how much firepower they have even when two of their best forwards have struggled to start the season. Patrik Laine is arguably the best goal scorer in the NHL and he only has two goals on the season and had 44 last year. Ehlers had 29 goals and 31 assists last year. He’s got 4 points so far. If the Panthers want to pick up four points this weekend, they need to keep Laine and Ehlers off the score sheet, because when the Jets offense is clicking, there won’t be much anyone in the NHL can do to beat them.
I know many of you are’t big fans of advanced stats, but here is a quick comparison of the two teams that should give everyone some hope.
The Panthers have had a brutal start to the season, there is no arguing against that. They are tied for last in the NHL with 7 points on the season. However, they have played the least amount of games at only 9. The schedule has been awkward at best and and a week long trip to Europe doesn’t make it any better. Their underlying numbers have been thoroughly mediocre and their special teams have been absolutely awful. It is fair to say their hasn’t been a more frustrating team to watch so far this season.
Here is where I try to put a positive spin on this. Like I said, they have played the least amount of games in the NHL and are in Finland for two games. This is the perfect time for a mental re-start. Everyone on the team is out of their comfort zone. Well everyone except Barkov and Juho Lammikko that is. Another benefit of the trip is that you can essentially throw momentum completely out the window. A trip like this is so far out of the ordinary that whatever happened in the past really doesn’t matter. The same goes for the Jets. They may have won 5 of their last 8, but that doesn’t matter either. These are two teams who had to travel a long way to play a couple of regular season games. 4 points in the next 24 hours could be a season changer for the Panthers, especially with the knowledge that Roberto Luongo has been taken off of injured reserve and will likely be back in net when the Panthers return home.
So enjoy the game this afternoon and tweet us your pics of you watching at work or wherever you are. I know this wasn’t a traditional Game Preview like Frank does, but I hope you guys enjoyed. As always, follow me on Twitter @CF3234.