NHL Preview, Picks and Predictions: Boston Bruins at Winnipeg Jets

By Mark Donatiello

It’s not pretty for the Winnipeg Jets right now.  Despite improved play, the difficulty of this brutal stretch of their schedule is proving to be a bit too much for Winnipeg.  Goaltending hasn’t allowed more than three goals since the first of the month, shutting down the high-powered offenses of the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.  The offense is averaging a mediocre two goals per game, but February has been marked by close losses to challenging opponents.

Sunday’s game against the Boston Bruins is no different than most of February’s tough scheduling.  The Jets host one of the hottest teams in hockey, carried by  strong goaltending, elite depth and overpowering physicality.  After starting a three-game homestand with consecutive losses, the Winnipeg Jets are desperate for a win against another talented team.

Ondrej Pavelec, after a shaky start to the season, was excellent against the Pittsburgh Penguins this week, holding the Pens to two goals before an empty-net tally closed out another tough loss.  If he’s as sharp as he was against the Penguins, he’ll be able to handle the attack of the Boston Bruins.  The Bruins run a different style of attack, however, because they lack the elite scoring of the Penguins.  Winnipeg’s goaltending and defense needs to remain focused against all four lines on Sunday.

The offense needs to break through if the Jets are going to fight their way back into contention in a middling division.  The Winnipeg Jets have been quiet the entire month of February after coming to be characterized in recent years as a team that can erupt to produce crooked numbers at any time.  Though “two” can be something of a crooked number depending on the font, it’s not enough to carry the Jets past elite teams this month.

The Boston Bruins are obviously quite talented.  They can grind teams to dust with their depth, beat teams down with physicality and they play an extremely sound game defensively.  The chemistry from their Stanley Cup championship generates scoring opportunities, and Tuukka Rask has been excellent as a starting goaltender.

Winnipeg has their work cut out for them, but they can certainly find a way to get a tough home win.  With a five-game road trip coming up, the Jets will be desperate for a win as they don’t return back to Winnipeg until Feb. 28.  Motivated as they are, I’m just not sure they can compete with a team like Boston the way they’re playing right now.

Boston Bruins 3 – Winnipeg Jets 2

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