© Chuck Duboff
There’s the excitement, the hype, the anticipation of the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Winnipeg Jets, who finished second overall in the NHL, the expectations of a long run in the playoffs are off the charts. I just read the Sporting News site, which had the Jets as the third favourites to go all the way; other sites have the Jets as the number one team to go all the way.
Those are mighty high expectations for our hockey team. That being said, what will be the keyS to the Jets beating their first round opponents, the Minnesota Wild:
- Goaltending: The Jets received Vezina and Hart Trophy goaltending from Conner Hellebucyk this season. He kept the Jets in many games and often times made the sensational save when needed. He has an air of confidence about him, seemingly not getting rattled when he is scored upon. For the Jets to take care of the Wild, Bucky will have to be on his A game.
- Defence: Getting a healthy Jacob Trouba back for the playoffs is huge; pairing him with Josh Morrissey gives the Jets a shutdown tandem, one which Coach Maurice can put out against the Wild’s best. There is some concern with Ben Chairot and Joe Morrow on the left D, but hopefully their partners, Buff and Myers can compensate for any troubles they might have. I don’t think we can count on Toby Enstrom anymore, because even if he does come back for game 2, teams will continue to hammer him and injuries will quickly mount. For the Jets to beat the Wild, we need the pairing of Morrissey and Trouba to be at their absolute best…and big Dustin Byfuglien continuing to play outstanding hockey.
- Forwards: This is the engine which roars; our top two lines of Scheif, Wheels and Conner, along with Stastny, Ehlers and Laine need to be firing on all cylinders!! Speed, forecheck and finding open ice is the key to these two sensational lines. All six of these forwards are capable of lighting the lamp and playoffs are the time to do just that. The Bryan Little line, if it isn’t going to score, must at the very least, be sound defensively…any offence from this line will be a bonus.
But, the key to a Jets win over the Wild will be the Lowry, Tanev, Copp line. Wednesday at 7:00PM, I would have this line start the game…and get the boys in the Wild zone, hammering their D, creating turnovers and smothering any chance for the Wild to get the puck out. This line is the key to the Jets winning the series. They are outstanding and if they are on their game, they are difference makers.
- Intangibles: As in any playoff series, home ice advantage is big…and is even bigger when the number one team for home ice wins is playing at Bell MTS Place!!! Facing a whiteout and 15,000 screaming fans will be a daunting task for the Wild…and this could be the one intangible which rides the Jets to a series win.
- Prediction: I can’t see the Jets losing four games to the Wild; Jets have won ten of their last eleven games and are playing with tremendous confidence. I can see the Jets winning the first two at home, losing game three in Minnesota, winning game four in Minny & then coming home and slamming the door on the Wild in Game 5.
JETS IN 5