Both the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets finished up play on Saturday knowing they have the next four days off. Those days wouldn’t be used for much rest, though. Instead, the teams embark on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Finland. As part of the NHL Global Series, the Panthers and Jets will faceoff Thursday night and again on Friday in Helsinki.
Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets Prepare for Finland Global Series Trip
Florida enters the Global Series sporting a 2-4-3 record. They aim to gain some traction and consistency after a disappointing start. Winnipeg, on the other end of the spectrum, sits at 7-4-1. The Jets see these games as a chance to improve their already strong record and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Western Conference.
There’s much more here than just a pair of games, though. The points mean a lot to both teams, and each night is sure to be an entertaining matchup. Emotion will play into things as well, as each team has a young Finnish star excited to play an NHL game in front of their friends and families.
Homecoming for Barkov and Laine
Both teams look forward to the trip with tons of excitement too, especially because of the elite Finnish players on their rosters. Florida captain Aleksander Barkov and forward Juho Lammikko hail from Finland, as well as Jets all-star Patrik Laine. The three will likely assume the role of tour guide for their teammates, showing them around the country they call home.
Finnish fans have been anticipating this week’s games for a while, too. They typically would have to stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 am local time in order to catch an NHL game. Although there are fans who are dedicated enough to do that regularly, it will no doubt be nice to watch games at a reasonable hour. Plus, they get to watch some of their favourite Finnish players up close and personal as well.
Finnish Focus: Patrik Laine
Right now, Laine is the active leader in points-per-game among Finnish-born NHL players. In 167 games, he’s scored 83 goals and 56 assists for 139 points. When EA Sports released NHL 19, the game featured Laine on its cover in Finland.
The talented forward comes off a career-high 44 goals and 70 points in his sophomore season last year. He’s earned respect league-wide playing on Winnipeg’s top line. However, its been a slow start to 2018-19, with just five points in the first 12 games. Jets and Finnish fans alike have their fingers crossed that playing some true home games in Finland will inspire Laine and get him going for the remainder of the season.
Finnish Focus: Aleksander Barkov
On the other end of the rink will be the Panthers’ premiere centre, Aleksander Barkov. Barkov became the second-youngest captain in the NHL, at 23, when he received the “C” back in September. Through nine games, Barkov has two goals and six assists for eight points.
Unfortunately, the Panthers haven’t been playing to the standard they set for themselves at the season’s start. After being among the league’s top teams over the last half of the year in 2017-18, Florida sits in the league’s cellars right now. They hoped a better start this season would set them up better for a playoff push after their poor start last year inevitably put them on the outside looking in. The Cats fell one point shy of a playoff berth.
They’re a desperate team right now, and Barkov won’t let points get away easily when playing in his home country. He also won bronze with Finland in Sochi at the 2014 Olympic games, when they topped the US in the bronze game by a 5-0 score. Finland loves Barkov, and they’re hoping he continues a strong personal start with a few points in the Global Series games.
NHL Global Series – Starts 11/2
Keep up-to-date with the action in Finland by following our coverage of the Global Series here at Last Word on Hockey. We’ll be posting updates from the road, team practices, and the games themselves. Don’t miss a moment!