It’s the period of parity, that means each workforce appears to have a shot to win each playoff collection – have a look at what the Nashville Predators did final 12 months because the No. 16 general seed – however not all collection are created equal. On paper, the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets appear to be one of many greatest mismatches. It’s nothing in opposition to what the Wild completed this season – however they misplaced their most necessary participant, workhorse defenseman Ryan Suter, to a damaged fibula a pair weeks in the past. And if there’s one workforce within the West you don’t need to face minus your finest shutdown man, it’s the high-flying Jets, who completed second solely to the Tampa Bay Lightning in targets and second solely to the Predators in general factors this season. Winnipeg screeches into the playoffs having received 11 of its ultimate 12 video games.
How They Win: The Wild are a quick and balanced workforce that depends closely on its high line to create offense. They have an unspectacular however deep and environment friendly protection – when wholesome. So they should hope Jared Spurgeon (game-time resolution) is prepared for Game 1. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk continues to show his re-emergence was no fluke. The renaissance of Eric Staal continues, and Jason Zucker retains progressing right into a top-shelf offensive participant. That doesn’t essentially make the Wild any extra harmful as a gaggle, however it does give them a few recreation breakers that they’ve lacked in recent times. There weren’t many groups within the NHL that had been higher than the Wild after the calendar flipped to 2018.
How They Lose: For all of the offense the highest line generated, the Wild truly scored fewer targets this season than final as a result of their secondary scoring has dried up. Injuries have robbed Zach Parise of his capability to be an offensive participant of affect, and Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle have taken steps backward. With nearly no offense coming from the underside six, an excessive amount of stress is positioned upon the highest gamers. Too typically, notably on the highway the place they don’t get final change and had a dropping report, the Wild are straightforward to close down. Devan Dubnyk’s goaltending has been good however not nice. The protection corps exhibited indicators of slippage after dropping Marco Scandella within the low season – and that was with Suter and Spurgeon wholesome. Without one or each, there’s great stress on Mathew Dumba and Jonas Brodin to deal with main accountability in opposition to a deadly offense.
How They Win: The Jets have a novel capability to overwhelm opponents with equal quantities of pace, ability and dimension. It’s nearly unfair to deploy Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers throughout a number of traces. Whom do you key on? Years of franchise constructing has produced a gaggle of gamers that’s lastly starting to understand its potential and has put all of it collectively this season. Led largely by the emergence of goalie Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets have been one of the crucial improved groups within the NHL defensively, however that might even be giving a brief shrift to the protection corps, which has matured collectively. The blueline has reduce down drastically on its obvious errors, the type that too typically final season resulted in a beleaguered goalie fishing the puck out of the again of the online. Led by a lethal energy play and a top-10 penalty kill, coach Paul Maurice’s Jets have among the finest mixed particular groups within the NHL.
Five Things To Watch
1. Can Devan Dubnyk steal this factor? The Wild are clearly outgunned on this one, that means they’ll want a goaltending miracle to have any likelihood on this collection. Is Dubnyk as much as the duty? He’s been remarkably constant in three.5 common seasons as Minnesota’s beginning goalie. In the playoffs, although? His profession save share is .903. He did maintain his personal fairly properly with a .925 mark within the first spherical final 12 months, although.
2. How a lot does playoff expertise matter – particularly in internet? Laine, Scheifele, Ehlers, Connor, Josh Morrissey…the record of Jets with zero profession playoff video games is longer than the record of fellows who’ve performed within the Big Dance. Most notable among the many playoff newbies, after all, is Hellebuyck. He loved a breakout season and can get some Vezina Trophy votes, however he struggled in 2016-17 beneath the stress of expectations. Is he prepared for the brilliant lights of the post-season?
three. The Patrik Laine Show. Does Laine, the sport’s finest aim scorer not named Alex Ovechkin, have an additional gear we don’t even learn about but? It’ll be enjoyable to see. On the opposite hand, we by no means know which Laine goes to indicate up. Streaky Laine ripped off 16 targets in 12 video games between February 16 and March 12. Cold Laine then notched simply three targets in his ultimate 16 video games of the 12 months. The outcomes are there on the finish of an everyday season, however certainly one of his chilly streaks will harm much more in a playoff collection when time is of the essence.
four. A possible coming-out celebration for Dumba. It took Dumba a couple of years, however he’s now realizing the potential that made him 2012’s No. 7 general choose. He logged 23:49 of ice per recreation this season. That’s a seven-minute enhance from simply two seasons in the past, and Dumba set profession highs with 14 targets and 50 factors. He’s obtained an enormous shot from the purpose and performs a rambunctious bodily recreation. But with no Suter, you’ll be laborious pressed to discover a single participant league-wide with a harder Round 1 project. Dumba might want to play 25 to 30 minutes an evening in opposition to among the finest offensive gamers on the planet. If he succeeds, although, he’ll be heralded as a breakout star.
5. Bruce Boudreau’s demons. We know the Boudreau narrative by coronary heart now. Among coaches with at the very least 250 video games, he’s second solely to Scotty Bowman in common season factors share. But in his 9 post-seasons, he’s been ousted in Round 1 5 occasions and Round 2 thrice. In all however a type of early-round exits, he had a first-place workforce. Maybe this setup is simply what he wants: zero stress as a heavy underdog for a change.
THN Series Prediction: Jets in 5.
LINE COMBOS, DEFENSE PAIRINGS & GOALIES