© Geoff Brookes
There is no shortage of analysis on this series between the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators. The teams’ relative strengths and “weaknesses” have been broken down, quantified, compared and contrasted. Predictions and probabilities have been made to within fractions of percentage points.
Most traditional media are picking Nashville to win the series, while the advanced stats analysts tend to see the series as a “pick ‘em” – even odds, or a dead heat to win.
We feel drawn to these analyses, like moths to a flame. But the facts are that these teams are both built with the same basic hockey theories and strategies in mind. They are actually extremely similar, in the way that they play, and in the style of player personnel. They are both built to take advantage of quickness and speed. They are both at their best when they are skating (as well as hitting) hard.
Their differences are less pronounced than the general pre-series analysis would suggest. The Jets have a slight advantage at the forward positions, especially with their high-end talent on their top 2 scoring lines. However, Nashville has some very talented forwards as well, such as Forsberg and Arvidson. Nevertheless, Wheeler-Scheifele-Connor and Laine-Stastny-Ehlers provide more offensive firepower.
Similarly, Nashville’s great top 4 defenseman provide a slight edge to Nashville, but I emphasize the word “slight”. The Jets top 4 D are also impressive – and highly under-rated outside Winnipeg. Morrissey and Trouba have been superlative, but Enstrom is perhaps the most under-rated defenseman in the NHL. And Dustin Byfuglien can change the course of a series, as he did against Minnesota in round 1.
Both teams have Vezina-nominated goaltenders. I don’t see an edge here – just the ebb and flow of high-caliber hockey games, with the occasional spectacular save.
What will determine the outcome of this series?
Speed, and the dedication to the coaches’ game plans. The team that simultaneously brings top level energy *and* faithfully executes their team game plan will win the majority of games, and the series.
Keys for the Jets:
- Don’t get sucked into responding to the Predators agitation game. The Jets players have said that they like their 5 on 5 game, and that they prefer not to have their rhythm interrupted by multiple penalties. If the Jets keep their cool, they should get their wish, as the referees appear to have put their whistles deep in their pockets. Deal with it, by recovering on the ice without retaliating.
- It may be out of their control, but the Jets need to stay healthy. I’ve heard many Jets fans that they want to see best on best against Nashville. The Jets need this, despite their organizational depth. Having Enstrom back and healthy is a big factor for Winnipeg winning.
- Play hard with energy. Out skate the Predators (and yes, the Preds have some fast players too). The formula for beating the Wild is the same as the formula for beating Nashville.
Prediction – Jets in 6. The Jets will win one game in Nashville, and win all their home games. That’s what they need to do, and they will make it so!
Go Jets Go!!!!!!