The Winnipeg Jets are keeping a thin hold on their division lead, but home ice be darned, they should just let the thing go for a better matchup.
The Winnipeg Jets won’t do this, at least not intentionally. Teams that are trying to win almost never try to lose. Teams almost never try to lose to secure a better playoff matchup.
And, usually, teams don’t like to give up home ice. Especially teams that are 25-12-4 at home and 21-17 on the road. It’s a bad idea, in theory.
If the Jets keep this pace, they’re likely to face the Dallas Stars in the first round. Against Dallas, the Jets are 1-3. Last week, they lost to Dallas, 5-2. They’ve surrendered fifteen goals in the four games against them, which is: Bad.
They have scored just ten goals, which is: Not great. Ben Bishop has been an issue, as has the Stars’ offensive….well, Stars. Being at home helps, but last week they got blasted by them at home.
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The game just before that? They shut out the Nashville Predators in a battle for the division, so the pressure was on. Connor Hellebuyck has an .898 save percentage against the Dallas Stars this season. That’s real bad.
Against Nashville, it’s .960. Against St. Louis, it’s .942. That’s not super predictive, but I’d rather have great recent history than terrible recent history. Laurent Brossoit ain’t starting any playoff games. Hellebuyck is going to be a huge part of the playoff series.
Winnipeg has a 3-1 record against the Blues this season, including 18 goals in those games. All in the first three, as a 1-0 shutout was their last matchup. That’s six goals a game! They did allow ten, but that’s not so bad.
Nashville won the first matchup against the Jets, but lost the next three. Two of those were just last month, so recent history favors Winnipeg, too. They allowed just seven goals in those four games, and Hellebuyck had his best performance this season in the shutout against the Preds.
After getting shutout the first game, the Jets scored five goals in all three contests, which is: Pretty good. I like the odds, honestly. You can’t put too much on regular season record, but you can put enough on it. They’re still the same teams.
If Nashville or St. Louis takes over the division lead, the Jets would then play the remaining team. They need all the help they can get. I’m not picking the Jets to win a series over Dallas right now.
I might have more faith against Nashville or St. Louis, which is a crazy thing I never thought I’d say six months ago. Going on the road might be tough, but if they can keep the lead over one team and fall behind the other, they’ll at least have home ice for the series.
The Winnipeg Jets did beat a better Nashville squad on the road last season, should you have forgotten. I do realize, however, that the Jets team was better that time around, too.
I’ve been so concerned with the Jets winning the Central and getting as many home games as they could, that I lost sight of the fact that it might not even be what’s best for them. They can’t fall out of the playoff race, but they can fall into a better matchup.