Nashville Predators vs. the Winnipeg Jets has all the markings of an exciting series. The idea that either of these teams will be out after Round 2 is on many levels incredibly disappointing. The Nashville Predators finished 1st in the league this season, with a total of 117 points. The Winnipeg Jets finished right behind them in 2nd, with 114 points. Each of these teams has what it takes to go the distance, both on paper and on the ice. Even though a cup contending team will be gone after this round, the series on deck now between the Jets and Predators should not disappoint.
Nashville Predators vs. Winnipeg Jets Preview
The Buyck Stops Here
It’s hard to find a regular season category that the Jets and Predators don’t hold the top spots in, and goaltending is no different. Connor Hellebuyck is the top-ranked goaltender in the league after the regular season, with a .924 save percentage on 44 Wins. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne comes third below the Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy who took second on the year. Rinne had a save percentage of .927 on 42 wins.
These stats don’t point to a clear-cut winner when it comes to goaltending. Both teams have a phenomenal man in the crease. However, there’s a chance that Hellebuyck may give the Jets an edge over Rinne and the Predators. Based on how the Stanley Cup Playoffs have gone for these two so far, it may come to pass. Let’s break down their respective performances so far.
Winnipeg’s first-round series with the Minnesota Wild went five games and ended in a 4-1 series win for the Jets. The Predators went for an extra game as the Colorado Avalanche stretched the series to six, ending in a 4-2 Predators win. Between Colorado and Minnesota, the Wild are a stronger team. The Wild finished the season in 8th place, nine spots above the Avalanche. However, Winnipeg made quick work of Minnesota, shutting them down offensively, allowing nine goals in five games played. The Avalanche should’ve been an easier team for the Predators to dispose of in round one. Unfortunately for Nashville, they struggled to shut down the Colorado top line.This could be an indicator that the Jets are better set to take the round two series.
Hellybuck is no doubt going to be more of a challenge in net than Colorado’s Andrew Hammond. Nashville has more than just one offensive line to worry about with Winnipeg. Rinne will no doubt have to be the backbone of his team if they hope to be more productive against the Jets than they were against the Avalanche.
The Defence Who Can Do It All
Although the Predators weren’t able to keep pucks out of their own net in key moments the last series, they made up for it with their offensive ability. The Predators are able to get on the scoresheet, with the help of their top forwards such as Colton Sissons and Filip Forsberg and help from their elite defense.
Out of the 12 Nashville players who finished the last series with more than one point, four of those players were defencemen. Mattias Ekholm made the biggest defencemen scoring contribution with five assists and one goal of his own, while P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi all made multiple contributions to the assist column, contributing to key Nashville goals. Ekholm finished the series with a +9 and Subban with a +4. These two players are a driving factor in Nashville’s success. Yes, they can score, but they can also defend. Winnipeg has Dustin Byfuglien, another prominent offensive defencemen, but he also spends a lot of time in the box for his team. His tally in that respect was 14 PIMS in the first round. The Jets will need Byfuglien on the ice as much as possible to help manage the firepower of Nashville.
Depth an Element of Both Teams Success
The 16 teams that made the playoffs and the eight teams that still remain are all good hockey teams. However, it takes more than just a good team to go the distance. It can only take a couple of great players to make a team good. However, to make a good team great depth is the only answer. The Jets and Predators have depth in their lineups. Injury potential does not hit these teams as hard as it would other teams. This is due to the deep rosters of capable players each team has built.
The Jets faced a number of small setbacks with players missing games in round 1 due to injuries. Tyler Myers and Nikolaj Ehlers were both scratched at different times late in round one due to injury. Although this didn’t stop Winnipeg from powering through the Wild, thanks in la to the Jets strong supporting cast.
Nine players on both the Predators and the Jets are averaging at least 0.50 points per game during the playoffs. Like any team, there are notable top contributors, such as Sissons (3 goals 4 assists) and Austin Watson (4 goals 3 assists) for the Predators. As well as Byfuglien (5 assists) and Mark Scheifele (4 goals 1 assist) for the Jets. However, there is no significant drop off in production between players at the top and bottom of the stats sheet. Both teams rely on secondary scoring and impactful effort from players not on the first two lines.
Both Winnipeg and Nashville have what it takes to make the journey to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Whichever club makes it through to the Conference Final will put up one hell of a fight. It seems that Winnipeg has the slight edge but time will tell. Only one thing is certain during the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: there are no easy games.
Embed from Getty Images