With the Stanley Cup playoffs quickly approaching, every team in the NHL is gearing up for that final push. The teams currently on the bubble are making final adjustments to their playing styles in order to move up the standings. Teams that are already guaranteed a spot are trying to get adequate rest without losing any momentum.
The Winnipeg Jets have been in playoff contention since the very beginning of the season and have occupied a spot near the top of the division all year. Unfortunately, all of the success during the regular season does not necessarily translate directly to the playoffs.
How does a team succeed during the playoffs? There are a variety of factors that go into playoff success and every year an unsuspecting team performs better than expected. The Winnipeg Jets want to be a team that makes a run this year and many experts think they can. The point of this series is to look at some of the key contributors, also known as X-factors, for the Winnipeg Jets and figure out who could play the hero in Manitoba’s capital.
Obviously the stars of the team like Byfuglien, Hellebuyck, and Wheeler are vital to the team’s success, but often times a supporting player can thrust himself into the playoff spotlight. The X-factor list consists of players that don’t necessarily get the same publicity as the stars but can still dramatically influence a game or series.
Without further ado, the first X-factor for the Winnipeg Jets is…
Given his phenomenal rookie season, it’s no surprise to find Kyle Connor at the top of the list.
There are a few different reasons why Connor can be an X-factor for the Jets during their first round series. First of all, Connor is leading all NHL rookies skaters in goal scoring. When looking at the scoring results specifically in games against Minnesota, Connor is at the top of the list. In four games against the Wild this season, Connor has two goals and three assists. No player on the Jets has scored more goals or has more points against the Wild. This reason alone points towards Connor having a big impact during the first round series. During these four games against Minnesota, Connor also had a CF% of 53.2. This means that not only can Connor score points at a high rate, but he can also influence the game in regards to shot attempts.
While the head to head numbers alone look favourable for Connor, there are a few other points worth mentioning. In the 46 games that the Jets have won with Connor in the lineup, Connor has 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points. In the 18 regulation losses Connor has played in, he only has 3 goals and 5 assists. It is very clear that when the Jets are rolling and winning hockey games, Kyle Connor is a large part of it. The disparity in goals specifically during the wins and losses tells the story of how important Connor’s play is to this Jets team.
The last thing to mention about Kyle Connor is the way he has been scoring during the last few weeks. In the past 8 games, Connor has scored 3 game winning goals, all of them during overtime. He has shown the ability down the stretch to score big goals when the game is on the line, making him extremely valuable in tight battles. Paul Maurice clearly has a tremendous amount of trust in Connor because of his responsible play and ability to score regardless of situation or pressure. A clutch player is more important during the playoffs and Kyle Connor has shown he doesn’t back down during crucial situations. That intensity coupled with his scoring touch means Kyle Connor could very well be the most important piece during this Stanley Cup run.