This series is looking like it will be one of the most lopsided matchups of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild lost defensemen Ryan Suter before the end of the regular season, thinning an already thin defensive unit in Minnesota. The Winnipeg Jets are a team that plays fast and physical, but they do not have experience on their side.
Connor Hellebuyck Dominating In Net
Connor Hellebuyck was one of the best goalies in the entire NHL for the 2017-18 season. Since the new year began, Hellebuyck has been one of, if not the best goalie in the whole NHL. Since January 1st Hellebuyck had a 23-7-4 record with a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average.
Hellebuyck has made it incredibly hard for opponents to score and in turn, it has put the Winnipeg Jets on a different level. The Jets finished the season with the fifth lowest goals against average in the entire NHL, and a lot of it is due to the play of Connor Hellebuyck.
Jets Milestone Season
The 2017-18 season for the Winnipeg Jets is the best in their history to date, and it is not close. Their 114 points are the highest total they have ever had, and now the team looks forward to trying to get out of the west. Winnipeg has never made it passed the Conference Quarterfinals, and they have not been in the postseason since the 2014-15 season.
Patrik Laine’s Goal Scoring
Patrik Laine’s goal scoring in the 2017-18 season was an incredible thing to watch. At just 19-years old Laine finished second in the NHL with 44 goals. Laine is the first European born player to score more than 40 goals before he turned 20.
Patrik has established himself as one of the best goal scorers in the entire NHL, and he is only getting better. Laine now will have the opportunity to develop his playoff abilities. No playoff series is easy, but the matchup against the Minnesota Wild will make the transition a bit easier. Laine has played well against the Wild, but not his best. In four games against Minnesota, this season Laine has two goals and zero assists, but he has a plus/minus of +2.
If Laine gets hot in the postseason, the Winnipeg Jets will be an incredibly scary team to watch. They have the goaltending that can carry on its own, but they also have an offense that can score at will. This series will be a fun test to see just how good this team is.
The Wild Underdogs
It is clear that the Wild are significant underdogs against the Winnipeg Jets in this series. If Minnesota wants to win this series, they are most likely going to have to play some of the best hockey they have played all year. Winnipeg has had the Wild’s number so far this season as they hold a 3-1-0 record against them this season.
It Starts With Dubnyk
Even though the Wild are underdogs, the Predators were in the same situation as Minnesota was last year. If the Wild want to shock the hockey world and upset the Winnipeg Jets, it is going to start with goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Strong goaltending wins in the playoffs and Dubnyk has shown he can be that, but he is going to have to outplay one of the best goalies in the NHL. Dubnyk’s numbers in the 2017-18 season were about average for all goalies. He finished the season 35-16-7 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. Of course, if the Wild are going to make a run, these numbers are going to have to be better, but he has shown he can play like that.
The Fountain Of Youth: Featuring Eric Staal
Eric Staal returned to his old ways this season and the Minnesota Wild are reaping the rewards. Staal’s 76 points this season are his highest total since 2010-2011. Staal was in the hunt for the Maurice Richard Trophy late in the year, and his surprise goal scoring has caught the entire NHL off guard.
Staal has shown he can carry this Minnesota team and going into a massive series against the Jets he may be called upon to do just that. Eric scored multiple points in 17 different games this season, but none of them came against the Jets, in fact, Staal has only scored one point in his four games against Winnipeg this season.
The Wild are going to need production from Staal if they are going to steal this series from the hopeful Jets. The Wild are going to need a lot of things to go their way, but they definitely should not be counted out of this series.
This series is going to be a lot closer than people think. The Wild are a beaten up team, but they do play with a lot of heart. I expect Devan Dubnyk to rise to the occasion and play some of the best hockey he has ever played.
Ultimately I do not think it will be enough. The Jets are a speedy and physical team, and even if Dubnyk plays well, they will wear down the Minnesota skaters. This series will be done in six, maybe seven games, but the Jets will take down the Wild in the end.
Jets win the series: 4-2
Featured image by CBS Sports
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