If there was ever any doubt which division would provide the most entertaining series in this year’s NHL playoffs, those doubts have surely been put to rest. The second round series between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators has lived up to the lofty expectations that fans, media and players have placed upon it.
A quick look at the numbers reveals that there is barely a difference between these two regular season giants. You can look at the road teams combining for four wins (two each) in the series so far, or how neither team has been able to win more than one game at a time, and while the Predators have a road shutout on their resume against the high-flying Jets, the Jets do boast a 22-18 overall goal lead.
Shots can be a decent way to gauge how the offences of a team are matching up. Through the six games so far, each team has produced 338 total shots (5-on-5) with each team getting 177 of those shots through to the goal. Since each team has a perfect 50% of the shots share, we need to dig deeper.
When comparing High Danger Scoring Chances (these are shots from the rectangular area that spans the width of the crease and up to the slot area – essentially the point-blank, highly dangerous shooting area) at 5-on-5, the Jets come in recording 66 High Danger Scoring Chances and the Predators at 65. With both teams getting their respective looks in these areas, it’s not surprising we’ve had such high scoring games.
The Power-play shows a similar story, as the division rivals are only separated by a single shot on-goal (Nashville 22 – Winnipeg 21), and the same holds true for power-play goals (Nashville 4 – Winnipeg 3). When we look at the High Danger Scoring Chances on the power-play, Winnipeg holds a 7 to 3 lead. This shows us that the Jets are getting up close and personal with Pekka Rinne on the man advantage, but the Nashville goaltender has been up to the task so far. Really, the only statistical separator on special teams is the solo short-handed goal the Predators have scored.
One spot Winnipeg has been marginally better than Nashville, is in net. Connor Hellebuyck has finished every game of the series so far and is sporting a solid .917 save percentage in all situations. Mirror that to Pekka Rinne, who has been pulled twice already and Nashville’s combined .897 save percentage (Between Rinne and back-up goalie, Juuse Saros) and you have a slim advantage for the Jets.
Whether it is even strength, on the power-play, on the penalty kill, or goaltending, all things point to these two juggernauts being in a dead heat going into Thursday night.
So how do we know who the better team is?! Well, obviously, they have to play game seven. It seems fitting that the two best teams in the NHL’s regular season would be squaring off in a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred match to finally determine who is the dominant team in the Central.
NHL history isn’t on the Jets side, though. Since 1939, when the NHL adopted the best-of-seven series, there have been 170 total game sevens and only 70 of these games have been won by the road team. A nearly 60% winning percentage bodes well for Nashville, who has played in two game sevens in their franchise’s history, losing one and winning one.
When the boys take the ice in Nashville, Tennessee for the first ever game seven in Winnipeg Jets 2.0 history, it will mark the next step in this new era of hockey in Canada’s windiest city. Hopefully there is still more to this ride and this isn’t the team’s last American exit.
As a great, hockey-loving Canadian once wrote:
They made you wonder and know for sure
You’ve made them hunger at night then they run for the door
You know you’ll probably cry like Caesar’s son when you’re found
It’s not your place it’s another town
Let’s face it, baby, I’m up and then, baby, I’m down
You’ll watch the border offer you fame and watch it drown
(all stats via NaturalStatTrick.com)