This is the Jets 2019 Playoff X-Factor series where we examine some of the key difference makers for Winnipeg in round one. Josh Morrissey was awarded the number one X-Factor, while Patrik Laine was second on the list. Our last X-Factor will have the chance to make an impact in the series through his physical play and tenacious defense.
The St. Louis Blues have enjoyed a dynamic number one line for most of the season. The trio of Schenn, O’Reilly, and Tarasenko have been phenomenal this year and have been destroying all opposition. They have outscored their opponents 22-9 during five on five play and have the great underlying numbers to go along with that. This line finished the year with a CF% of 53.52 and an xGF% of 55.82, both really good numbers.
The reason to look at the Blues top line is because Lowry’s job will be to shut them down as much as possible. Never one to shy away from big assignments, Lowry has shadowed the opposition’s best on a nightly basis for the last two years. The best part about Lowry’s game is that he excels in the big matchups, which means he should be at his best when the puck drops in round one. Such an important assignment easily gives Lowry the X-Factor status for round one.
Most people would agree that Lowry is a great defensive player for a variety of reasons. He’s big, tough, and always seems to be in the right spot to break up the play. This is clearly evident when looking at the shots against when Lowry is on the ice.
That giant ocean of blue is a great thing for Winnipeg as it means that fewer shots are coming from those areas. It’s clear that when Lowry is on the ice, the Jets give up far fewer dangerous opportunities. This actually becomes comical when looking at how the Jets perform without Lowry on the ice.
As you can see, it’s a night-and-day difference. Having Lowry match up with the top line of St. Louis to try and neutralize them will be one of the most important things to watch for in round one.
Obviously Lowry’s defensive game is structurally sound, but he becomes even more dangerous when his offensive game is flowing as well. Lowry’s end to the season is a reason for optimism as he recorded three goals and two assists in the final six games of the year. Lowry’s possession numbers have also been really good for the Jets. Moneypuck.com has Lowry as the second best Jets forward in xGoals% with 52.8% and Naturalstattrick puts Lowry fifth among Jets forwards in HDCF% (high danger chances for %) at 53.54%. The interesting thing to note is that all three of Copp, Tanev, and Lowry are in the top five for Jets forwards in that regard. Last year there was plenty of chatter that this was an underrated line and it appears that narrative fits the bill once again.
Even though that trio has been split up as of late, Lowry can still drive a line by himself if he needs. This is evident by the following chart where we see virtually every single player get worse when they play apart from Lowry.
This ability to make others better is paramount, especially in the playoffs when things might get shuffled midway through a series. This versatility and positive impact makes Lowry a prime candidate as an X-Factor.
Lowry’s job isn’t going to be easy as he’s likely going to be tasked with shutting down the Blues’ top line all series. Given the way he’s performed in this role before, there’s no reason to doubt Lowry’s ability. This dependable play makes Lowry a vital piece during the first round as he can help stabilize the game and flip the momentum around. This pivotal task makes Lowry an X-Factor for round one against the Blues.