Jets-Wild Notebook: Winnipeg is owning puck possession

Winnipeg Jets' Tyler Myers (57), Adam Lowry (17), goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) and Dustin Byfuglien (John Woods/CP)

ST. PAUL, MN – Hours after what the National Weather Service dubbed a “historic” mid-April snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on the Twin Cities, caused hundreds of accidents and pushed the Jets team charter back to Winnipeg, we’re playing hockey.

“This is real playoff weather – if you’re playing in Antarctica,” quipped Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, noting that his wife was at home shovelling the driveway a second time while he ran the game-day meeting.

Here is a flurry of notes ahead of Game 3 of the series, which will mercifully be played indoors Sunday night.

Jets can’t catch a direct flight

The Jets tried to fly to Minneapolis Saturday, got re-routed to Duluth, Minn., and ultimately returned for a good night’s rest back at home.

The club hopped back on the plane early Sunday morning and landed roughly eight hours before puck drop.

“It’s overblown,” Boudreau said of his opponents’ travel issues. “It’s playoff hockey, and they’re going to be ready. We had a time in Washington, one time we had a noon game, Pittsburgh couldn’t get in, they bussed in 10 hours before the game and outplayed us really badly. It’s all about the will, and Winnipeg has will right now, so this travel thing is a non-issue.”

Wild bank on home ice to turn emotional tide

As the series jumps towns, from Whiteout to whiteout, the Wild look to lean on the crowd support that boosted them to the second-best home record in 2017-18 (27-6-8).

“It’s gonna be big,” Eric Staal said. “This is a great place to play. We’ve had success here all year. Great chance for us in Game 3 in front of our fans to get the job done and get the win.”

The Wild have now lost five straight road games in Winnipeg, getting outscored 23-12 in the process.

In order to claw back into this series, they must clean up their game and increase their speed.

“We have to play our absolute best,” Boudreau said. “The guys care a lot, and they’re a resilient group, but, most of all, they’re competitive and they care. So, I mean, when things don’t go well, they’re not happy.”

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Dumba deserves a day off

Swallowing a huge chunk of injured workhorse Ryan Suter’s minutes, 23-year-old defenceman Mathew Dumba took Saturday’s practice off and is reportedly playing banged up.

“When you play 30 minutes a game, and you’re really not used to it, I just told him to stay home,” Boudreau said. “He is OK. He should be well-rested for [Sunday night].”

Boudreau denied a report that Dumba would be a game-time decision. He better be ready go.

Myers made ’em nervous

Towering Jets defenceman Tyler Myers had just six goals in 82 games this season, but he opened the scoring in Game 2 with his fourth goal in 19 career playoff games. He walked by Minnesota winger Jason Zucker and then whipped a shot past Devan Dubnyk.

“I know a lot of the guys were a little nervous when I first made the move, but luckily it worked out well,” laughed Myers. He knows Dubnyk well, but won’t claim to have the big goalie’s number.

“I was just shooting,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve shot on him a lot this past summer and he’s always a very good goalie. I was lucky to put one by him.”

Eric Stalled

Staal’s 42 goals this season tied a Wild franchise record (Marian Gaborik) and elevated the top-line centre to the fringes of the Hart conversation. He was but a rumour in Games 1 and 2, so Boudreau is reuniting Staal with Mikael Granlund in hopes to wake him up.

“Granny’s a great playmaker. He’s on the pucks, he makes plays in traffic,” Staal said. “It’s tight out there, so you gotta be able to make plays quickly and he can do that. Hopefully we play well.”

Neutral(izing) zone

The Wild devoted most of Saturday to working on a plan to bust through the Jets’ suffocating middle-ice scheme instead of just dumping it out. They’re timing is off, and they failed to provide enough puck support during their zone exits.

“They’re staying pretty patient. They’re aggressive, but they sit back,” Zucker explained of the Jets. “They let our D-man have control and one guy kind of forcing, and then once you start coming up, they have two guys kind of waiting weeds and then they have their other two D-men really waiting back in the weeds coming forward also.

“If you come with speed, they’re in trouble.

Winnipeg owns the puck

The Jets’ possession has been off the charts in this series, a large part of the reason they’ve outshot the Wild 84 -37 in two games. They’ve got a 66 per cent 5-on-5 Corsi through two games (source:, tops in the NHL in Round 1.

The Jets have posted back-to-back 40-shot nights, while Minny doesn’t have 40 shots in total, falling behind 2-0 as the series now shifts to St. Paul.

“We’ve played a very fast game,” observed Jets defenceman Joshua Morrissey. “Our forwards have been extremely hard in not giving them any clean ice to make passes on breakouts. We’ve played two solid games and sort of have limited their time and space with the puck.

“That’s the style we want to play.”

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Big Buff

Dustin Byfuglien can go in and out a bit during the regular season, but he is absolutely dialled in through two games in this series.

“He’s been amazing,” said teammate Adam Lowry. “I think he’s had a couple hits that have almost seemed to single-handedly change the game. You look at the hit on Joel Eriksson Ek in the first game, and the one on Koivu in the second game.”

With the puck on his stick, Byfuglien still has one of the heaviest shots in the league, and made a deft pass from behind the Wild net on Paul Stastny’s Game 2 goal.

“He’s doing it all,” marveled Lowry. “That was a great play on Stastny’s goal. He’s using his size effectively. He’s been a force for us back there.”

Jets like those odds

Teams that go up 2-0 in a playoff round by winning both games at home go on to win the series 89.3 per cent of the time. Teams that take a 3-0 lead win 98 per cent of the time. If the Wild don’t salvage a W Sunday night, you can safely bet they’ll become first-round fodder the third straight year.

“We’ve had moments all year where we’ve needed to respond at certain points in the regular season, so it’s no different [now],” Stall said. “We have to have everybody on board to execute and respond.

“We gotta play the biggest game of the year.”


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