In a playoff series pitting the second-place team vs the third-place team in the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild hope to upset the powerhouse Winnipeg Jets.
This series starts in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
The Winnipeg Jets took the season series 3-1. The Jets were flying high in the first three games, and the Wild took the last game.
In their first meeting on October 20, 2017, Patrik Laine scored twice while captain Blake Wheeler got the game-winner at 13:14 of the third period to ensure the 4-3 win. As a preview of how powerful a scorer Laine was to become, this was his seventh game of the season and he already had four tallies.
The two teams clashed again on October 31, 2017, and this was a one-goal game won again by the high flying Jets 2-1. Nikolaj Ehlers scored his seventh goal of the young season to move the Jets record to 6-3-2 at the time. The Wild went to 4-4-2 after this loss.
The third contest between these two Central Division foes was on November 27, 2017, in Winnipeg.
It was a laugher.
The Wild scored the first two goals and something you don't see very often in the NHL happened after that.
The Jets put on the afterburners and scored SEVEN unanswered goals to go away winning 7-2. It can be assured that the Wild do not need the Jets to go hog-wild again like that in this playoff series.
In fact, in the last game of the season series on January 13, 2018, the Wild did exactly what they needed to do to show the Jets they can win. By the score of 4-1, the Wild prevailed.
When you discuss the roster of the Jets you must include the words offensive dynamo. They were second in the NHL in goals scored with a 3.38 average per game.
When you have players who can light the lamp like Winnipeg, they just take over games at times.
Wheeler had 23 goals, 68 assists in 81 games, and it's not difficult to say he was a catalyst for the team. As the captain, his leadership will be tested in the playoffs to see if he can be as good in the locker room as he is on the ice. If Minnesota ignores him, he will burn them.
This prolific young scorer (yes... he's only 19-years-old) led the league in power play goals with 20. He also was right behind Alex Ovechkin with the most goals in the NHL with 44 to O's 49. He added 29 assists to total 70 points. He had a fantastic 18.3% shooting percentage.
Here's a bit of advice to the Wild players... don't take too many penalties because the Jets power play is pretty POWERFUL!
Laine is one terrific player, and when his entry-level contract expires in 2019/20 the team owner Mark Chipman had better get his checkbook out.
Ehlers played all 82 games and totaled 29 goals, 31 assists to place third in scoring on the Jets. He had seven power-play goals. Another player the Wild must keep on their radar or he'll score on you.
For the Wild:
The veteran had 42 goals to mark the highest total since way back in 2005/06 when he had 45. His point total of 76 bested his total in 2010/11. He enjoyed his best shooting percentage of his career with a 17.4% accuracy rate. The Jets need to keep him off the scoreboard, if possible.
He came through with 21 goals, 46 assists to finish second in team scoring. He had seven power-play goals to pace the Wild power play behind Staal who had 11.
Zucker tallied 33 goals, 31 assists to show his ability to score as well as dish out helpers. He averages 16:58 of ice-time and is a stable two-way player with a +8 rating.
The Winnipeg Jets will be difficult to stop, but if the Wild intend on moving past the first round they had better figure out how to contain the group of scorers they must defend against.
The Jets also came away with the second most points with a 52-20-10 record good for 114 points. They trailed the Nashville Predators by just three points.
As mentioned previously their powerplay is strong and finished fifth in the NHL with a 23.4% success ratio. They killed penalties at an 81.8% rate.
The Minnesota Wild finished with a 45-26-11 record. They finished an unimpressive 11th in scoring and way down at 21st in goals allowed. With the Jets potent offense, the Wild will need to step up their defensive coverage.
Their power play ratio was 18th, and their penalty kill was 13th. They will have their hands full containing the talented forwards on the Winnipeg club.
It just seems like the Wild will have more than they can handle with the ominous attack that the Jets can use at their disposal.
I mean how do you stop Laine? Or Wheeler? It's not an easy task, and because the Wild are just an average playoff team they will go down in five games to the Jets who may not even exert themselves much to save energy for the next round.
Goaltending is vital, but Winnipeg has the clear edge with Connor Hellebuyck showing 44 wins and a 2.36 GAA, and a .924 save percentage. It doesn't take a genius to see he will be one of the deciding factors in Winnipeg's success in the postseason.
PLAYOFF WINS = GOOD GOALTENDING.
Laine will score 4 power play goals in the five-game thrashing of the Wild.
Sorry Wild, it's not your year... again.
What is your opinion of this series? Will Winnipeg prevail easily? Let us know in the comments section below.