The Anaheim Ducks have quietly been one of the NHL’s best teams all season long. One hundred and nine points was good enough for the Western Conference crown and just a couple points behind the New York Rangers in the President’s Trophy race. There is no debating that the Ducks were not one of the best teams in the league this year, but there are question headed into the playoffs. Consistent goaltending has been lacking, depth scoring is questionable, and the Ducks special teams struggled all season. There are also questions about this team in the playoffs. The Ducks have been a top team for the last few years, but once playoffs have come around, early exits have plagued them, and their coach Bruce Boudreau also has had his troubles in the post season. The Ducks are led by the same guys who have been doing it for years. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are still two elite scorers in this league and can change a game by themselves. After that however there is a significant drop off, the Ducks will need more production from their bottom 9 forwards if they want to make any kind of noise this year in the playoffs, if not it will be another early exit for the only Californian team in the post season.
The Winnipeg Jets have made the playoffs for the first time since the franchise relocated. The last time this franchise saw the playoffs was a 4-0 series loss to the New York Rangers in 2007, and the last time this city tasted playoff hockey was April 28th, 1996, the day the Detroit Red Wings packed the suitcases of the Jets for the final time. This is a new team however and a new attitude surrounds them. These Jets feel like they can beat any team on any night, and no building will be louder than the MTS Centre. The Jets just need to do their part on the road, and they will be a tough out for any opponent they come up against. A key in the series will be Ondrej Pavelec, and without him, the Jets have no shot, just as they would have had no shot at the playoffs. Pavelec has been a rock since retaking the starters job, and is currently on a 187 minute shutout streak. The Jets will rely on their depth to carry them, they have four strong forward lines and 12 capable defensemen, and if they can all pull together this team ahs the opportunity to go far.
Goaltending: Both of these teams have flip flopped on their goaltenders this season, with multiple goalies for each team owning the starters job for some period of time. Heading into the playoffs it appears the match up will be Ondrej Pavelec against Frederik Andersen but do not be surprised if you see the back ups step up at some point. The team who’s goaltender can stay solid will win this series, both will be on short leashes however and expect to see Michael Hutchinson, John Gibson, or both.
Depth: The playoffs are all about depth, first line players often will cancel each other out and it will come down to your secondary scoring and more. Early this year the Jets depth was their biggest question mark, past Ladd, Little, and Wheeler, no one knew what to expect. The growth of Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele, combined with a slew of trade deadline acquisitions has given the Jets one of the stronger four line units going today. The Ducks have had the same question marks outside of their top scorers and will need more if they want to get by the Jets.
Special teams: Once playoffs come around the rules slacken a little bit, the game is played far tighter, and the whistles get a lot less likely to be blown. This makes every opportunity that teams get with the man advantage that much more important. Neither team is gangbusters on special teams but the Jets do have the advantage on both their powerplay and penalty kill. The X factor may be the Jets shorthanded opportunities. They led the league with 10 shorthanded goals this season and in the playoffs, a goal while man down could swing an entire series.
Ondrej Pavelec (22-16-8) GAA: 2.28 SV% .920
Frederik Andersen (35-12-5) GAA: 2.38 SV% .914
Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Postma, WPG, (LBI) day-to-day
Perreault, WPG, (UBI) day-to-day
Gibson, ANA, (Hand) day-to-day
Thompson, ANA, (UBI) day-to-day
Ducks take game one over inexperienced Jets but strap in fans, it’s going to be a long back and fourth series.
Ducks 3 Jets 1
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