The Winnipeg Jets managed to win their first playoff game in franchise history Wednesday thanks to a Joe Morrow point shot that was tipped and fluttered through Devan Dubnyk with just over seven minutes remaining in the third period.
The Jets were able to power their way to victory despite the Wild imposing their will on the flow of play and creating a typical Minnesota Wild stat line. The Jets piled up shots from the perimeter, but held just a small 13-10 advantage in scoring chances on net, and the Wild led in high danger chances by a 7-5 margin.
In the regular season, Winnipeg was one of the most successful teams at both penetrating the slot in the offensive zone and keeping their opponents outside the slot in the defensive zone. But the inner slot, or high danger area, is the one place where the Wild have actually been better than their first round opponents.
Make no mistake, Winnipeg certainly outplayed the Wild in Game 1, but their dominance in shot metrics and time of possession didn’t translate to better scoring chances, which is something they’ll need to watch out for as the series goes on.
The Jets’ ability to get into the slot with their passes and get their shots off from there in Game 1 compared to the regular season, they saw a drop in efficiency in every area at both 5-on-5 and in all situations.
To be clear, this is just one game, and by no means am I suggesting the whole series is going to continue this way for the Jets, but the Wild do excel at stifling opposing offences in the slot and making bank on counter attacks when they generate turnovers.
In fact, Minnesota’s counter-attack ability is one reason why the Jets may be hesitant to have their defencemen pinch too aggressively to overwhelm the slot. The rest of the games in this series may play out similarly to Game 1, where the Jets settle for a huge number of perimeter shots with about a three per cent chance of going in, while their forwards hunt near the front of the net for rebounds.
One area to watch for the Jets is their ability to attack off the rush. Patrik Laine’s first career playoff goal wasn’t an odd-man rush, but it was a nice play by Paul Stastny to leave him a drop pass after gaining the offensive zone with control. It was one of only three chances off the rush the Jets got on net, though overall they generated nine scoring chances off the rush.
Typically a lot more of those rush chances will find their way on net. Minnesota went five-for-five off the rush in Game 1, so if the Jets can tighten up their shooting, the rest of these games may not be so close.
Success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is always about which team can adjust to the other quicker, and if the Jets are able to find some efficient routes to break down the Wild’s prevent defence style in their own zone, the goals will follow in short order.