The scene is now set in the for the second round games in the Western Conference, with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets vying for a place in the Conference final. We’ve already previewed the Golden Knights Vs Sharks series, now it’s time for the Central division match-up:
How did we get here?
Before Jacob Trouba‘s game winning goal in the first period sealed the deal on Friday, the last time an NHL team in Winnipeg made the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs was in 1987. That was with the original iteration of the Winnipeg Jets. The current franchise has never been able to match that feat, even during its time in Atlanta. Until now.
The Winnipeg Jets have been an outside favourite for the Stanley Cup for some time, and their first round series against division rivals the Minnesota Wild was expected to be a walk-over for the boys from Manitoba. It mostly was too. While fellow Western Conferencers Vegas and San Jose were able to sweep their first round opposition, the Wild surprised everyone with a 6-2 win in game three, but the Jets replied with 2-0 and 5-0 wins in games four and five to make (current) Jets history.
The Jets, who finished second in the conference now have to face the best team in the west, Nashville. Last season’s Stanley Cup finalists were expected to sweep the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, but Jared Bednar’s Avalanche team pulled out a few surprises. Few people expected the Avs to make the playoffs in the first place, never mind put up a half decent challenge. Even less thought that the series would take six games to decide the winner.
In a weird twist, despite progressing, the Preds looked vulnerable and undisciplined. Evidenced by dropping two games to the Avs and this:
Nashville’s Ryan Hartman suspended one game for an illegal check to the head on Colorado’s Carl Soderberg. https://t.co/uMMlHfRDX9
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 19, 2018
So what should we expect in the second round?
As division-mates, the Jets and the Preds have met five times in the regular season, with Nashville taking the W from three of those games.
11/20/17: NSH 5 – 3 WPG
12/19/17: WPG 6 – 4 NSH
02/27/18: NSH 6 – 5 WPG
03/13/18: NSH 3 – 1 WPG
25/03/18: WPG 5 – 4 NSH (SO)
The Conference winners may have the edge from the regular season but the Jets will have had more time to rest. The team from Canada can find goals on all four lines, but keep an eye on Patrik Laine and #HiSticking favourite Mark Scheifele, both of whom will be pivotal if the Jets want to keep the party going.
Playoff performances for both goalies so far:
Both of these teams have given their goalies equal chances to stop the puck, with almost identical shot locations. As with last season, we’re faced with the ‘how good is Pekka Rinne?’ question again. His numbers aren’t outstanding compared to Hellebuyck’s. On the Corsi front, the Jets’ 58.9% is the best in the playoffs, although that’s closely followed by the Preds’ 54.6%.
This series has the potential to go all the way to game seven, but the bookies have good odds on the Jets going all the way to the finals, and I don’t have any reason to disagree with that. Which team do you think is going to the Conference Final? Comment below or join in the conversation on Twitter!
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