3.05 Goals For Per Game (11th in the NHL)
2.79 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
20.4% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
81.3% Penalty Kill (13th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 42G 34A = 76pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 21G 46A = 67pts
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 33G 31A = 64pts
4. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 14G 36A = 50pts
5. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 14G 31A = 45pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 72 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 46 PIM’s
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 44 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (35-16-7) 2.52GAA .918%SP 5SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (10-10-4) 2.85GAA .910%SP 1SO
3.33 Goals For Per Game (2nd in the NHL)
2.63 Goals Against Per Game (5th in the NHL)
23.4% Power Play (5th in the NHL)
81.8% Penalty Kill (9th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 23G 68A = 91pts
2. #29 Patrik Laine ~ 44G 26A = 70pts
3. #27 Nikolaj Ehlers ~ 29G 31A = 60pts
4. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 23G 37A = 60pts
5. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 31G 26A = 57pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 112 PIM’s
2. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 52 PIM’s
3. #57 Tyler Myers ~ 48 PIM’s
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (44-11-9) 2.36GAA .924%SP 6SO
2. #35 Steve Mason (5-6-1) 3.24GAA .906%SP 1SO
Extras: Roslovic, Hendricks, Lipon, Morrow, Enstrom
Extras: Greenway, Mitchell, Anas, Rau, Murphy, Olofsson, Belpedio
Series Schedule: Jets Won Regular Season Series 3-1
Game #1: Minnesota @ Winnipeg ~ Wednesday, April 11th @ 6:00PM CST
Game #2: Minnesota @ Winnipeg ~ Friday, April 13th @ 6:30PM CST
Game #3: Winnipeg @ Minnesota ~ Sunday, April 15th @ 6:00PM CST
Game #4: Winnipeg @ Minnesota ~ Tuesday, April 17th @ 7:00PM CST
*Game #5: Minnesota @ Winnipeg ~ Friday, April 20th TBD
*Game #6: Winnipeg @ Minnesota ~ Sunday, April 22nd TBD
*Game #7: Minnesota @ Winnipeg ~ Wednesday, April 25th TBD
*- If necessary
It is the calm before the storm, as the regular season falls back into the rear view mirror and the intense maelstrom that is the playoffs begin. Every team is hoping to be the one that acquires 16 victories so they can be Stanley Cup Champions. For Minnesota, they are probably more consumed with the challenge of just getting past the 1st round than anything else.
Drawing the Winnipeg Jets in the 1st round will be a pretty steep challenge for any team, let alone the Minnesota Wild. In this article, we will examine both clubs as we look for strengths and weaknesses to give you a good idea as what to expect in this opening round series.
The Jets possess one of the most potent offenses, with 5 players that have over 20 goals to their credit led by Finnish sniper Patrik Laine and his 44 goals. Rookie Kyle Connor has also delivered plenty of scoring with 31 goals of his own. Former Breck star Blake Wheeler had 91 points and is one of three excellent playmakers for the Jets along with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers who each have at least 23 goals or more of their own. Paul Stastny centers the 2nd line which means Bryan Little anchors the Jets’ 3rd line and he had 43 points this season making Winnipeg very difficult to match up against.
Most of Winnipeg’s forwards combine size, speed and play a heavy style of game. Adam Lowry, Joel Armia are big bodies that have caused the Wild fits in the past and both are fixtures of the Jets’ 4th line. If the Jets want to change things up they might call upon the talented Jack Roslovic who brings speed and great hands to the table where he has been a leader for the Manitoba Moose this season.
Minnesota has been led by Eric Staal and his record-tying 42-goal season and Jason Zucker who had a monster (contract) season with 33 goals. Mikael Granlund is still mostly a playmaker but he had 21 goals of his own. After that the Wild had a bunch of forwards with over 10 goals in Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle and Matt Cullen which give Minnesota some solid scoring depth of its own. The Wild will need this latter group to step up with some offense to keep the Jets honest when they’re not helping out to shut down Winnipeg’s potent attack. Joel Eriksson Ek and Daniel Winnik will be important to help shut down the Jets. Jordan Greenway might get a chance and he showed flashes of being a force as a power forward which might be useful against the Jets collection of gritty forwards.
The Jets defense has steadily improved the last few seasons and combine mobility, skill and physicality. Led by Roseau-native Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets blue can chip in offensively and help start the transition out of their own zone. At 6’7″, Tyler Myers is great at forcing opposing forwards to the perimeter using his long reach to disrupt the attack. Josh Morrissey and Tobias Enstrom are quality puck movers and Byfuglien is an aberration as a player well over 250+ lbs that can still fly with the puck whenever he wants to. Jacob Trouba may be back and he plays a strong two-way game. Ben Chiarot and Tucker Poolman are strong, physical stay-at-home types to round out the Jets’ 3rd pairing.
The main story is how well will the Minnesota Wild be able to match up against the Jets without Ryan Suter. Suter averaged the 2nd most minutes of any player in the NHL and while his loss certainly hurts the Wild have shown themselves to have some depth defensively to try to cover up that loss. The Wild are hoping Jared Spurgeon can return to distribute some of Suter’s minutes along with Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba who seem to be ready to handle the increased workload. Whether that will work in the playoffs remains to be seen. Yet if this group has another ace is their ability to help Minnesota offensively and they’ve been active on the scoresheet since Suter got hurt.
Nick Seeler and Carson Soucy appear to be good options for the 2nd and 3rd pairings to go along with veteran Nate Prosser. Ryan Murphy and Louie Belpedio also seem like viable options but with the Jets heavier style I’d expect Soucy and Seeler to play a bigger role in this series.
The big offseason move last summer was bringing in Steve Mason which was supposed to give the Jets the stability between the pipes they felt they were lacking. That didn’t happen as Mason struggled before bowing out due to injuries and that meant Connor Hellebuyck was the main man and he responded with a stellar season. I doubt we’ll see Mason in this series at all unless something goes wrong for the Jets.
Minnesota will go with Devan Dubnyk who has demonstrated in the past his game regresses a bit in the post-season. The Wild need Dubnyk to be at his absolute best if the Wild are to have a chance in this series. While the play in front of him will be important, but Dubnyk must try to eliminate his penchant for giving up the soft goal (or two). If Dubnyk seems shaky, it would not surprise me to see the Wild go to Alex Stalock.
So what must the Wild do to win this series?
- Win the Special Teams Battle ~ Staying out of the box is important, but even more so when you’re without your best defenseman. The Jets have a too many weapons to give them many power plays and expect to escape unscathed. On the flip side, Minnesota must take advantage of the power play opportunities the Jets will give them.
- Pay the price, don’t worry about settling the score ~ the Wild are not a big rough and tough team. The Jets will attempt to intimidate, and Minnesota can’t get caught into matching the Jets hit for hit. Yet Minnesota must weather the storm but be willing to pay the price to make plays and work their way in close to score. The Wild should do what they can to retaliate on the scoreboard than trying to intimidate the Jets.
- Start fast and finish strong ~ the playoffs are about momentum, but Minnesota better be ready to move well and cannot afford a sluggish start. The first goal is important and playing with the initial lead helps build confidence. If the Wild have a lead going into the 3rd, they need to continue to attack and force the Jets to defend instead of just circling the wagons and hoping for the best.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to defeat the Jets? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below. We close this preview with another brilliant musical parody courtesy of Kari Mongeon Wahlen where you can see it here.