This is part two of our 2019 Playoff X-Factor series. In part one we looked at the potential impact of a healthy Josh Morrissey and how he can transform the lineup. In part two we are going to look at the streakiest Jets player and how he can be the difference maker in round one for Winnipeg.
There’s no doubt that Laine has had an incredibly rocky road this season with extreme highs and lows. This streakiness alone gives him the status of an X-Factor because he has demonstrated the ability to completely take over games.
The obvious example is the historic five-goal performance back in November. In that game, Laine couldn’t do anything wrong and everything he touched ended up in the back of the net.
The interesting thing to note is that this performance came against the very same team that Winnipeg will be facing in round one. Sometimes all it takes to get out of a slump is to play a team that you have performed well against in the past. If that’s the case for Laine, he might be in for a fantastic series.
Historically, Laine has performed very well against the Blues. Over his career, Laine has scored 13 goals in only 12 games against St. Louis. The only other team he has scored more goals on is the Dallas Stars with 15 goals in 13 games.
Just this season, Laine has scored over a point per game against three teams, Vancouver, Florida, and St. Louis. All signs seem to be pointing towards Laine being in an ideal matchup.
This isn’t to say that things will be easy for Laine. He’s struggled tremendously with his consistency as he gets hot for weeks at a time and then promptly gets cold right after. It wasn’t that long ago that some fans wanted Laine traded at the deadline.
Thinking maybe we should trade for Stone. Sign him. And let Laine walk. Am i nuts?
— Freemen (@freemen_14) February 18, 2019
There were even some suggestions that he should be given a seat in the pressbox if he wasn’t able to score goals. While that might be a bit extreme, the numbers show just how streaky Laine was this season.
During the year, Laine scored in only 19 games. Basic math tells us he didn’t score in the other 63. For a pure sniper, that’s a lot of games to go without a goal. The interesting part is that Laine averaged 1.58 goals per game when he did end up scoring. So it appears that the options are to have Laine score multiple goals in one game, or go multiple games with none at all. There has been no in-between this year.
When looking at the shot maps, it’s clear where Laine gets his goals from.
There’s plenty of scoring from the left circle, and the other important area appears to be between in the high slot. One of the keys for Laine in this series will be to get to the prime scoring areas as it makes him infinitely more dangerous.
The other positive sign for Laine is that he’s endured a lot of back luck this year that will likely turn around going forward. His shooting percentage this year was more than 5% lower than his average over the first two years of his career. While his true talent level is still unknown, it’s likely better than the 12.2% shooting percentage he had this season.
The other aspect of bad luck Laine endured is the amount of posts that he hit. According to NHL.com, Laine led the entire NHL in posts hit with 14 this season. For reference, Connor McDavid was second with 12. Obviously this was a factor in the poor shooting percentage as Laine couldn’t get the lucky bounces when he needed them.
In round one against the Blues, Laine is in an interesting position. He’s been phenomenal against St. Louis his whole career, but has had an extended cold streak for the second half of the year. The Jets’ fate could very well be decided by Laine and whether or not he is able to perform throughout the series.
This streakiness coupled with the potential to take over a game makes Laine a prime X-Factor candidate in round one.