Who would be the Winnipeg Jets’ preferred first-round playoff opponent?

Jets captain Blake Wheeler talks about thriving under pressure, the amazing feeling of playing meaningful hockey and how much better it is playing in Winnipeg than in Atlanta.

Trailing the Nashville Predators by eight points, the Winnipeg Jets aren’t likely to move anywhere in the standings between now and the end of the regular season, which means they’ll have home ice in the first round and will probably face either the Minnesota Wild or Colorado Avalanche.

The Jets should have the advantage no matter who they face in the first round, because they’re a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with enviable scoring, but which team is the better matchup for them?

The Avalanche have fewer wins and points than the Wild, but carry a superior overall goal differential, so let’s dig into how these teams tick and how that relates to the Jets.

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Neither the Avalanche nor Wild are great at controlling shot attempts at 5-on-5, with the Avs ranking 27th in Corsi at 47.29 per cent and 24th in score-adjusted Corsi at 48.43 per cent, while the Wild are even weaker; ranking 29th in Corsi at 47.05 per cent and 26th in score-adjusted Corsi at 47.72 per cent.

The Jets, meanwhile, are an effective shot control team, ranking 11th in Corsi at 51.21 per cent and seventh in score-adjusted Corsi at 52.02 per cent. So in all likelihood whichever team the Jets face off against in April, they’re going to hold a decided advantage in shot attempts.

However shot quality is a whole different animal, so let’s break down each of these teams offensively and defensively.

The Jets are significantly better defensively than both the Wild and Avalanche, and overall they’re better offensively as well. Minnesota is better at creating high danger scoring chances, though of the three teams the Wild generate the fewest chances overall.

The Avalanche are a run-and-gun team that thrives off the rush and gets their scoring chances through not just speed in skating, but the ability to make plays at high speed after gaining the zone. The Avalanche are the most dangerous rush team of the three, and surprisingly the Avs are also excellent at limiting chances against off the rush.

Unfortunately for Colorado, the Jets are also a top team at limiting chances off the rush, so the Avs’ biggest offensive strength would likely not be as effective against the Jets as it would against other teams.

The Jets aren’t much of a rushing team, as they prefer to gain the zone and create offence through forechecking and cycling, generating the second- and third-most chances in the NHL off those tactics respectively.

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The Wild are one of the best teams in the NHL at defeating opposing forechecks and actually allow the second-fewest chances off the forecheck in the league. However, they’re closer to league average at defending the cycle and can be caught running around a bit in those situations.

The Jets could truly press their offensive advantage against the Avalanche, who are the third-worst team in the league at defending the cycle, and the second-worst at defending opposing forechecks. Their team weaknesses lines up almost perfectly with the Jets’ strengths, which leads me to believe they’re the team the Jets should be hoping to face when the post-season begins.

There are other factors outside of 5-on-5 hockey of course, but when you consider the season Connor Hellebuyck has had, the fact the Jets run the third-best power play in the NHL and the fifth-best penalty kill, it’s tough to see any edge Colorado could have. Anything can happen in a playoff series, but in terms of how the teams stack up against each other based on the regular season, the Jets should want the Avs.

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