© Geoff Brookes
Can the Minnesota Wild Ground the Jets?
The Winnipeg Jets have exceeded all of our expectations this year. Even for a bullish forecaster (like myself), they beat the market estimates. I had them at 106 points with my pre-season prediction…and the Jets have finished the season with 52 wins and 114 points.
Now that the Jets have earned home ice advantage for their opening playoff series, it’s time to consider the challenges presented by their first-round opponents, the Minnesota Wild.
There is one advanced stat about the Wild that stands out like Kilimanjaro above the plains. According to Corsica.ca, the Wild had the lowest “expected goals against” in the entire NHL this year.
This is not a fluke, and this is not a drill. In the previous year (2016-17), the Wild were second only to Boston in “expected goals against”.
In a similar vein, the “expected save percentage” for their #1 goalie, Devin Dubnyk, was the highest in the NHL for both this year *and* last year.
Call it the Boudreau factor. The Wild just do not give up high quality shots for their opposition. Haven’t for 2 years now. (Hmmm…. Boudreau also coached the Ducks back when the Jets met them in the playoffs in 2015….this sounds bad.)
But wait a minute, you say. Didn’t the Jets blow out the Wild 7-2 back in November? Didn’t the Jets win 3 out of 4 games against the Wild this year?
All true. However, the Wild were banged up in the fall, including Zach Parise. In their last meeting with the Jets, in January, the Wild beat the Jets 4-1 in Minnesota. And the Wild only really got their season going in a big way in February.
Ah, you say, but they are now without their stalwart defenseman, Ryan Suter.
Missing Suter is the “X factor” in this series. Suter really is an amazing defenseman, controlling the play of games like few defenseman can. Missing Suter is a massive blow for the Wild. The Wild will need Spurgeon to be healthy (recovering from a hamstring), and will need their entire Defense group to play like they’re….well, like they’re Ryan Suter.
This series will be won or lost based on the battle for the slot area. It is a critical battle zone, pitting the talented young Jets forwards against a rookie-laden group of defensemen. If the Wild defensemen can follow Boudreau’s game plan successfully, they could potentially frustrate the high-flying Jets. If, on the other hand, the deep group of Jets forwards can dominate the play as they did against teams like the Kings and the Ducks in March, possibly tiring the opposing defensemen and exploiting the slot area, then it could be a short series in favour of the Jets.
We will also bring you some more features on this upcoming series in the coming days. Enjoy!
Go Jets Go!!!