The Winnipeg Jets opened the second round with a nerve wracking win against the Nashville Predators.
Although majority of the stats favoured Nashville, the Jets were the ones who made the most of their opportunities. The win came from an all around team effort as the goals were scored by three different lines and every Jets player but Roslovic had over 10 minutes of ice time. There were many positives that can be taken away from game one, but there are also a few areas of concern as the series moves along.
First of all, thumbs up to winning the game. There are going to be games where the Jets are out shot, out chanced and out played. When the playoffs roll around, it doesn’t matter what the stats are, as long the game is won. Scheifele mentioned post-game that playoff games aren’t ‘stolen’ from the other team, either you win or you lose. The Jets simply won in game number one.
Thumbs down to exiting the defensive end. Protecting a lead in the 3rd period is tough. Protecting a lead while repeatedly failing to clear the puck is even harder. The Jets missed far too many breakout passes and looked like the weaker team along the boards. There were many times where the Jets tried to rim the puck around the boards only to be stopped and directed towards the net by a Predators defenseman.
Thumbs up to Connor Hellebuyck. On a night where the Winnipeg Jets did not play their best, Hellebuyck stole the show. Hellebuyck stopped 47 of 48 shots for a .979 save percentage. Most importantly, Hellebuyck looked calm in the net. He wasn’t giving up many rebounds nor was he over-committing on the cross seam passes. It was a great performance for number 37.
Thumbs down to the number of shots given up. The good news for the Jets is that most of Nashville’s shots were from the outside edges of the rink and Hellebuyck could see them all. The Jets did a good job clearing away rebounds and boxing out the forwards who were hunting for a loose puck. The bad news is that the Predators found ways to get so many pucks on the net, even shooting through screens and between sticks. The Jets need to be more active with their sticks and quicker to get to the point to take away the shooting lanes.
Thumbs up to Dustin Byfuglien. The big man was arguably the best player on the ice tonight for both teams. After having a few bad moments in the first series against the Wild, Byfuglien looked ready to go for round 2. He was pinching only when he needed to, he was playing physical without taking penalties, and he was responsible in his own end while defending the net. It was a great night for Byfuglien as he lead the Jets with close to 26 minutes of ice time.
Thumbs down to the faceoff circle. The Jets struggled all game winning draws and by the end of the night the Jets had only won 34% of the faceoffs. This abysmal faceoff percentage contributed to the number of shots on goal as the Predators were taking shots quickly after their offensive zone wins.
Thumbs up to spreading the goals around. The first three goals of the game were scored by three different lines. The distribution of ice time was fairly even as well, as all four lines played well throughout the game. Even the fourth line of Hendricks, Copp, and Roslovic had some great offensive zone time near the end of the second period. The depth of this team has always been strong and with each line contributing, the Jets will continue to be dangerous.
Thumbs down to taking penalties. In a game where both teams were being physical, the referees didn’t call a lot of penalties. Only three penalties were taken all game, and all of them were by the Winnipeg Jets. The penalty kill was decent and had success being aggressive at the blueline. Unfortunately, the Jets were unable to draw any penalties. They need to take the puck to the net with force if they want to get some power play time. A lot of the game was played along the boards in the cycle game, but if the Jets want to draw some penalties, it will be with their speed towards the net.
Lastly, thumbs up to Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers took a while to get going after his malaise last week, but the turning point was the penalty he took against Fiala near the blueline. After the penalty was killed, Ehlers looked like a force on the ice. He created the second goal by using his speed to the outside, and he was getting back defensively to not allow any sort of odd-man rush the other way. In a game where the Jets struggled to find scoring chances, Ehlers was the go-to player to get the offense flowing.