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Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2018 Playoff Recap: Winnipeg Jets Vs Nashville Predators (Part 1)

The Winnipeg Jets just wrapped up their most successful season in franchise history. They set a new franchise record for points during the regular season finishing with a record of 52-20-10 which put them second in the league. That same success carried over into the playoffs as they won the franchise’s first postseason game. They didn’t stop at one game as they moved past the first two rounds and made it all the way to the conference finals.

Even though they lost to the Golden Knights with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, this playoff run should be celebrated. The point of this series is to look back at the 2018 playoffs because this historic season deserves to be remembered. One post couldn’t do the series justice so make sure to check back in the coming days for part two of the Nashville series recap.

 

Matchup Review

The hockey world got exactly what they asked for with the Jets and Predators facing off in a second round battle. While it might not seem fair that the top two teams in the entire NHL have to play each other so early, it had casual fans and media salivating for weeks. As the regular season was coming to an end it became clearer that Winnipeg and Nashville would get to meet in the second round. Although all of the media was anticipating this heavyweight match-up, both teams were focused on getting through round one.

The Winnipeg Jets played the Minnesota Wild in their first round matchup. Check out the first part of this series for an in depth recap of the Jets victory. The Jets won their series in five games and the highly anticipated match-up was ready for takeoff.

The Predators played the Avalanche in round one and most people didn’t expect the series to last long. This was the match-up most predicted to be a sweep because of the disparity between the teams. Colorado was the second wildcard team and had to play the top team in the entire NHL. The series was closer than anticipated as Colorado won game three at home and stunned Nashville with a late goal to take game five as well. Nashville didn’t waste their second opportunity at closing out the series as they won game six on the road to advance.

 

Game Review

From the very first drop of the puck, the Winnipeg Jets knew the second round was going to be a much different story than their previous match-up. While the Jets controlled the shots and possession in round one, it was Nashville controlling the play this time around. Game one began with the Predators throwing everything at Hellebuyck to try and score an early goal and get the momentum on their side.

Although the shot count favoured Nashville, the Jets were able to strike first. Tanev opened the scoring in the first period and brought the Jets into the first intermission up by a goal. The Jets went out and stunned the crowd in the second period by scoring two more for a 3-0 lead going into the third period. The Jets held off a late push by Nashville and Scheifele added an empty net goal to put the game out of reach.

Game one had Nashville extremely frustrated as they had 48 shots on net but could only get one past Hellebuyck. Rinne, on the other hand, got pulled after allowing three goals through the first two periods. The battle between the goalies became a key match-up as the series moved along.

Game two was more like the regular season series between these two powerhouses. The regular season games were high scoring, action-packed affairs that had excitement throughout the entire game.

The excitement in game two began early as Johansen opened the scoring only 27 seconds into the game. It was back and forth from there as the teams traded goals through two periods. Game two was much more balanced in regards to shots and chances and it felt like either team could walk away with the victory. The Jets found themselves down late in the game and it was Scheifele who played the hero by scoring the tying goal while Hellebuyck sat on the bench.

There was action both ways in the two overtime periods before the Predators were able to tie the series in double OT. It was a tough loss for the Jets as they were one shot away from winning both games on the road and taking a commanding 2-0 series lead. 

Game three started terribly for the Jets as they found themselves down 3-0 after the first period in the first ever second round game at Bell MTS Place. Things were looking down as they were coming off a double OT loss and were playing poorly at home. The Jets needed something to go their way to gain momentum and that bounce came from Paul Stastny. A harmless looking point shot went off Stastny’s foot and finally beat Rinne to get the Jets on the board.

The minutes that followed this goal were truly amazing. The Predators landed a high hit on Wheeler and Scheifele came to his aid immediately. This wrestling match resulted in coincidental penalties which gave the Jets an opportunity to turn the game around. During the four on four action Dustin Byfuglien scored and brought the crowd to their feet. Before the fans could sit back down, Trouba scored the tying goal and sent the fans into a frenzy. To wrap up what was arguably the greatest period in Jets history, Byfuglien scored his second of the game and celebrated with a little shimmy giving the Jets their first lead heading into the third. The Jets were able to pull off the “W” and had fans partying in the streets for hours afterwards.

The series began to really move up and down after game three. The scoring was drastically reduced with only one goal each period. After the Predators scored the first two goals of the game they put up an absolute wall in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap.

The Jets couldn’t generate any chances and were repeatedly prevented from carrying the puck over the blue line. It was frustrating to watch as Nashville coasted through the third period without surrendering any scoring chances. Nashville’s shut-down defence gave them the edge they needed to run out the clock and tie the series at two.