Winnipeg Jets (Central – 2) vs Minnesota Wild (Central – 3)
The Jets went 3-1 in the four-game season series with the Wild.
Blake Wheeler scored his 200th career NHL goal in the first meeting, helping sneak Winnipeg past Minnesota 4-3. With the win, Paul Maurice became the 17th head coach in NHL history to record 600 career wins. Patrik Laine also showcased his rocket of a shot with two powerplay goals in the Jets victory.
Connor Hellebuyck carried the Jets to the second win in the season series as they won 2-1 on goals from Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor. Hellebuyck made 28 saves on 29 shots and didn’t allow a goal until the third period.
The Jets dismantled Minnesota in the third meeting with a 7-2 win. After the Wild started out with an early 2-0 lead with goals from Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart, Winnipeg scored seven unanswered goals. The Jets showcased some roster depth as all seven goals came from seven different players.
Minnesota found a way to win the final game of the year against the Jets behind goaltender Devan Dubnyk who made 32 saves on 33 shots. Defenseman Matt Dumba scored twice in the third period to seal the win for the Wild and increase their chances of ultimately making the playoffs.
Winnipeg Jets – 52-20-10
The second Canadian team in this year’s playoffs are also the second-best team in the league. The Winnipeg Jets completely shattered their point total, since re-entering the NHL. Finishing with 114 points (52-20-10), the Jets dominated at home with a 32-7-2 record at Bell MTS Place.
The Jets were second in the league in goals for with an average of 3.33. They were also 5th in goals against at 2.63. They held the 5th best power play with a 23.4% efficiency rate and landed in the top 10 in penalty kill at 81.8%.
Having a solid line-up at centre was also evident, with Winnipeg finishing in the top 5 with a 52.4% face-off rate. Added to the middle of the ice was Paul Stastny who was acquired at the deadline.
Joining Stastny, the Jets have been able to put together one of the more solid line-ups in the NHL this year. With captain Blake Wheeler putting up 91 points on the season (23G-68A) and Patrik Laine showing he was more than worth the second overall pick in the 2016 draft.
The Finnish winger racked up 70 points (44G-26A) this year showing off his cannon of a shot especially on the power play where he put up 20 goals.
Mark Scheifele was able to put up 60 points (23G-37A) despite missing 22 games with injuries. Pairing that with another 60 point season from Nikolaj Ehlers and solid defensive play with a corp built around Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien the Jets are undoubtedly one of the deepest teams in the NHL right now.
Lastly, let’s not forget about goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck tied Andrei Vasilevskiy for most wins on the year (44). Hellebuyck ended the year with a .924 SV% and a GAA of 2.36.
The Jets appear to be a favourite to go all the way possibly. I do envision them making it to the Western Conference final, but a lack of playoff experience concerns me on if they can make it past a team like Nashville if it comes to it.
Minnesota Wild – 45-26-11
After being eliminated by the Blues in five games in the first round last year, the Wild ended the 2017-18 season five points short of last year. Finishing with 101 points (45-26-11) this year, Minnesota falls around the middle in goals for (3.05) and goals against (2.79).
The Wild don’t have an all-star on their team with loads of production, but they did have five players reaching 50 points or more.
Eric Staal (76), Mikael Granlund (67), Jason Zucker (64), Ryan Suter (51) and Matt Dumba (50) have contributed to the bulk of the Wild’s production in 2017-18.
The one spot where Minnesota has been near the top of the pack has been goaltending. Devan Dubnyk finished in 6th place in wins with 35. He also found himself near the top of the league with a .918 SV% and a 2.52 GAA.
Injuries could be the downfall to the Wild’s playoff hopes, however. They’ve been without one of their top defensemen, with Jared Spurgeon missing time since March 13th with a hamstring tear, but is expected to be back for the playoffs.
The more significant loss right now for Minnesota is Ryan Suter. Suter was one of the teams best point producers as well as a solid veteran presence not just on the blue line, but for the entire team. Suter will miss the postseason with a broken ankle he suffered in a 4-1 loss to Dallas on March 31st.
The Wild could have been a team to pull off a few upsets, but with the loss of Suter, I see it very difficult to believe they can make it past the Jets in the first round.
My Prediction: Jets in 5 games.