Don’t Cool Your Jets on Winnipeg vs. the Wild

Don’t Cool Your Jets on Winnipeg vs. the Wild article feature image

In a season full of good stories, Winnipeg’s rise to legitimacy certainly was one of the best. Priced at +6600 to win the Stanley Cup, the Jets finished with the second-most points in the NHL. Minnesota came into the season with high expectations but sputtered out of the gate before finding its legs in the middle of the season.

Both teams bring some extra baggage into this one as Minnesota’s head coach Bruce Boudreau has come under fire for his previous playoff failures. Plus, this Winnipeg franchise (which started in Atlanta before relocating earlier in the decade) has yet to win a playoff game.


Winnipeg Jets (-210) vs. Minnesota Wild (+175)

Series schedule: 
Wednesday, April 11: Minnesota @ Winnipeg, 7 p.m. ET, CNBC
Friday, April 13: Minnesota @ Winnipeg,  7:30 p.m. ET, USA
Sunday, April 15: Winnipeg @ Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET, USA
Tuesday, April 17: Winnipeg @ Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET, CNBC
Friday, April 20: Minnesota @ Winnipeg, TBD*
Sunday, April 22: Winnipeg @ Minnesota, TBD*
Wednesday, April 25: Minnesota @ Winnipeg, TBD*

Market Watch: This series opened with Winnipeg -185 but got steamed to -210. At the current price, the Jets have an implied probability of ~68% while Minnesota is being given about a 36% chance to win the series.

 

Setting the Stage: Winnipeg won three of the four regular season meetings. The Wild only scored six total goals in the first three matchups (all losses), but those all came in 2017. The Wild did win the regular season finale by a score of 4-1, but the Jets were playing the second of back-to-back games on the road. All in all, I wouldn’t take too much from the regular season series.

Home ice will matter in this series, which obviously gives the edge to a Jets franchise that has home-ice advantage for the first time since 1985. The raucous Winnipeg crowd should help even more than it did throughout the regular season. The Jets, who led the league with 66 home points, have won nine straight at Bell MTS Place. They also led the NHL with 32 home victories, which only four other teams have done over the past 13 seasons. Fear the whiteout.

While the Wild will have a difficult time stealing one on the road, they also have been fantastic at home this year. Minnesota only dropped six games on home ice in regulation during the regular season, which is one less than the Jets. – Stuckey

Injuries: The Wild will be without stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter for this entire series. The Jets should be at, or close, to full health. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom is the only real injury concern for Winnipeg entering the playoffs.

The Numbers Do The Talkin’: Interestingly, Minnesota has the worst Corsi For % (a barometer for possession that measures the amount of shot attempts for vs. shot attempts allowed at 5v5, also known as CF%) of any playoff team, but the Wild rank first in expected goals against (xGA) per 60 minutes and second in expected goals differential. The Wild’s strength is their defense and keeping teams away from danger areas, but that’s also a significant strength of their opponent.

Winnipeg ranks second in the NHL in scoring chances against per 60 minutes, just barely ahead of Minnesota. While the Jets are excellent at suppressing scoring chances, they are also good going forward. The Jets scored the second-most goals at even strength this year and finished with the third-best even strength goal differential in the league.

Goalies: Six months ago, this would look like a goaltending mismatch with Devan Dubnyk being the clear favorite, but things have changed. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck broke out this year with a 93.03 even-strength save percentage and a 4.99 WAR (wins above replacement) and gives the Jets a reliable goalie capable of backstopping them on a run this spring. Even if Hellebuyck does slip a little bit, Winnipeg is so good in front of him that it doesn’t need to rely on a game-stealer, which is important because this will be the 24-year-old’s first taste of the playoffs.

Dubnyk is still solid, but his team has made things very easy for him this season. He posted a 93.03 even strength save percentage, but his expected save percentage was the highest in the league at 93.57, according to Corsica.Hockey, so he didn’t face many tough shots over the course of the year. — Michael Leboff

Trends: This is Winnipeg’s third playoff appearance since joining the league (as Atlanta) in 2000. The Jets have never won a postseason game (0-8 straight-up), losing on average by 2.3 goals. — John Ewing

Since becoming the head coach of the Wild in 2016, Bruce Boudreau is 3-8 on the moneyline (-5.5 units) when receiving at least 51% of the moneyline tickets, the least profitable coach over that span. Boudreau was 14-8 on the moneyline (+1.7 units) in this spot while the head coach of the Ducks. — Evan Abrams

Player to Watch (Winnipeg): Dustin Byfuglien is the only skater in this series to rank in the 99th percentile in Corsi For over the past month, but the team leader in penalty minutes (112) will have to keep his emotions in check if Winnipeg is going to be successful. The Jets were the fourth-most penalized team in the league, but Byfuglien laps the field pretty easily with Blake Wheeler (52) next in line. Thankfully, Minnesota drew the seventh-fewest penalties in the league, just 2.92 per game. — Joe Holka

Player to Watch (Minnesota): The loss of Suter cannot be understated for this hockey team — few players in the league can eat those minutes — but keep an eye on Matt Dumba, who’s 23.49 average time on ice (ATOI) this season was third-most for the Wild. The biggest key for Dumba could be to resist the temptation to over-compensate offensively for the loss of Suter, at the expense of his defensive responsibilities. That said, over the past month no Minnesota skater has more shots+blocks or power play shots (both in the 95th percentile). — Joe Holka

Why Winnipeg Should Win: Winnipeg is the superior team, top to bottom, and over the course of a seven-game series the Jets’ quality should win out. The addition of Paul Stastny at the deadline has given the Jets three legitimate scoring lines and has helped young wingers Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers grow their game even further.

The Jets will see the majority of the puck and control the play, so if they avoid any defensive lapses they’ll be in good shape. They just have too much firepower at even strength, so this is their series to lose. — Michael Leboff

Why Minnesota Can Win: For the Wild to pull off this upset, their stellar defense is going to need to step up even more. They are facing a very good shooting team, so their ability to limit good scoring chances will be vital to their survival. Slowing things down and playing for 2-1 or 3-2 wins will suit Minnesota, but it’s a big hill to climb against a stacked team. — Michael Leboff

Betting Value: I think Winnipeg wins this in five or six, but there’s no value in backing them at -210. For that number to have value, Winnipeg would have to win 68% of the time, which I think is slightly high. — Michael Leboff

Picks:
Leboff – Winnipeg in 5
Holka – Winnipeg in 5
Stuckey – Winnipeg in 5