A week ago the Jets made some history and finally won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history and gave the city of Winnipeg an NHL playoff series victory for the first time in 31 years. It’s felt like 31 years have passed since that time (h/t Randy Turner) but tonight the Jets resume their quest for Lord Stanley’s Mug.
Standing in their way? The one team that was slightly better than the Jets in the regular season… The Nashville Predators.
Round Two – Game One
April 27, 2018 – Puck drop: 7:00 PM CST
Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
TV: CBC, SN 360 – Radio: TSN 1290
Recently for the Jets…
Closing out their series with back-to-back shutout wins over the Minnesota Wild proved that the Jets were just as strong on defense and goaltending as they were with their highly regarded offense. Winnipeg essentially posted three shutouts in the series, the first could have happened in game two of the series before being ruined by a last minute goal by Zach Parise.
Connor Hellebuyck was arguably the star of the series as he posted a .924 save percentage. Take away an awful game three where Helle did struggle behind a team that travel-weary and playing even worse in front of him and that save percentage jumps to .969 thanks to a pair of 30 save efforts to shut things down.
The defensive effort – especially with regulars Tobias Enstrom and Dimitri Kulikov out for the entire series, Tyler Myers and Josh Morrissey both missing games four and five respectively – was something to behold.
And this isn’t to say the offense was bad – Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien led the team with five points each while Patrik Laine continued to snipe away – but if defense wins championships, the Jets served notice that they have the defense and depth at the position that can help do it.
Recently for the Predators…
Nashville had more issues with the Colorado Avalanche than I think anyone would have guessed they would have had, needing six games to eliminate the pesky Avs. Nashville showed signs of vulnerability and it was topped off with a third period collapse in a game five loss to prolong the issue for one more game before the Preds were able to collect themselves on the road and right the ship somewhat. Austin Watson and Colton Sissons aren’t exactly names you think of when it comes to the Preds offense and while Mattias Ekholm is good, he’s not the first name you gravitate towards when looking over their defense. But it was those three who helped carry the load in the first round which in a way could be a good sign.
Kyle Turris only managed one assist in six games. The ‘big three’ of Josi, Subban and Ellis didn’t manage to pick up any goals (they did have eight assists between them). Viktor Arvidsson was held in check for the most part with a goal and two assists in six games played. On one hand, that’s not ideal, but on the other it could be encouraging that they found a way to win without production from their top players and that they are due to break out any time now.
Pekka Rinne of course is in goal for Nashville, but his playoffs had a rockier start than Connor Hellebuyck’s did as he was chased from a dismal game three performance and only posted a .909 save percentage.
Nashville was the better team against Colorado, but it was far from perfect.
The Season Series…
Winnipeg didn’t lose many season series this past year (in fact the Jets were sub .500 against only three teams), but Nashville was one of the few teams that gave them fits pretty much all season having gone 2-3-0 against them. That season series features a game in which the Jets gave up three unanswered goals in the third period to lose in regulation and a game where the Jets gave up two short-handed goals in one period.
But the Jets also won a game where they gave up a goal lead twice and still won in regulation, as well as managed to clinch a playoff berth in a game where they overcame being down by two goals twice and ended up beating Nashville in a shootout, so it hasn’t been all bad.
To see more about the season series between these two clubs, including condensed games, check out our review that we posted earlier this week.
Winnipeg Jets Lines
Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Paul Stastny – Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp – Bryan Little – Jack Roslovic
Brandon Tanev – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Josh Morrissey – Jacob Trouba
Toby Enstrom – Dustin Byfuglien
Joe Morrow – Tyler Myers
Connor Hellebuyck – Steve Mason
Nashville Predators Lines
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Kyle Turris – Craig Smith
Austin Watson – Nick Bonino – Colton Sissons
Ryan Hartman – Mike Fisher – Calle Jarnkrok
Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis
Alexei Emelin – Matt Irwin
Pekka Rinne – Juuse Saros
Sorry to be a bummer here, but while the Jets are saying the right things leading up to tonight’s game, they’ve had a full week off and might not be truly prepared for what Nashville brings them tonight both in the stands and on the ice. If the Jets can get past the first ten minutes of the game and even score first, they might be in ok shape, but that won’t happen tonight. Preds lead off the series with a 4-2 win.