So what side should you back? And where does the value lie? Visit SportsLine to get NHL odds and picks for every Stanley Cup Playoff game, all from the advanced computer model on a red-hot 21-8 NHL run.
The Western Conference might be home to the first-round matchup with the hottest team of the 2017-18 Stanley Cup playoffs, and that matchup has nothing to do with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators. Down the stretch, the Winnipeg Jets proved they can be an absolute force, and they got off to a good start in their opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild, taking a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Jets entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak and a 9-1 record over their last 10, and they’re far ahead of schedule, leapfrogging preseason expectations of playing spoiler to enter their first postseason series in three years. They’re the favorites against the Minnesota Wild, who have now been to the playoffs six years in a row. Minnesota, meanwhile, are in quite a different position, having long accomplished the goal of reaching the Cup hunt but always failing to advance.
Here, we break down every angle of the Central Division showdown and offer our predictions:
How to watch
(All times ET)
* – If necessary
- Game 1, Wednesday, April 11: Jets 3, Wild 2
- Game 2, Friday, April 13: Jets 4, Wild 1
- Game 3, Sunday, April 15: Wild 6, Jets 2
- Game 4, Tuesday, April 17: Jets at Wild, 8 p.m. — CNBC, SN, TVA Sports
- *Game 5, Friday, April 20: Wild at Jets, TBD
- *Game 6, Sunday, April 22: Jets at Wild, TBD
- *Game 7, Wednesday, April 25: Wild at Jets, TBD
NHL Playoffs odds
This is where the Jets do their damage, and it’s where they should be able to scare Minnesota on a nightly basis. Patrik Laine was worthy of the spotlight in 2016-17, but this year, he’s even better. Mark Scheifele’s health could be worrisome down the road, but Winnipeg simply isn’t lacking for firepower otherwise, scoring more than anyone except the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. Eric Staal should produce, but the Wild will need Zach Parise to be on another level to have a shot.
Had Ryan Suter not broken his ankle, the Wild might hve matched up more evenly here. Even if Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba step up, they’re going to face a tall task trying to slow the Jets’ young scorers, whereas Winnipeg has allowed the fifth-fewest goals per game with the help of some top-tier goaltending. The Jets’ giveaway totals aren’t great, so the Wild could benefit there, but it’s still hard to give Minnesota a definitive edge.
Devan Dubnyk has proven capable of putting the Wild on his back and carrying the team to victory, so his talent isn’t to be overlooked. In fact, in any other matchup, he’d probably be close to a lock of a favorite, especially since he was nimble to close the regular season. This isn’t any other matchup, though, and the man in between the pipes on the other end of the ice is Connor Hellebuyck, who’s done nothing but dominate in a career year, logging six shutouts and an NHL-best 44 wins.
If the Wild can bait the Jets into the kind of penalties they fell victim to in recent seasons, maybe Minnesota will have a shot to offset some of Winnipeg’s statistical advantages here, but the safe bet is on the Jets simply overpowering their division rivals with the strength of their power play. The Wild’s penalty kill hasn’t been that much worse than Winnipeg’s, but the latter has also been a force with extra-man advantages, ranking fifth in the NHL in power-play success.
Benjamin: It was nice to see such a big year from Staal, and the Wild have a couple guys, like Joel Eriksson Ek, who could be primed for a playoff emergence, but there’s just way too much high-powered talent — starting with Laine — on the Jets to ignore Winnipeg’s momentum, which is unfolding a year ahead of schedule. Jets in 5.
Blackburn: Winnipeg is so dangerous and deep up front. It’s hard to imagine Minnesota being able to hang with the Jets’ explosive offense, especially with Ryan Suter and (possibly) Jared Spurgeon out of the lineup. Jets in 5.
Skiver: One of the best logos in sports might have had a chance to at least drag this series to six before Ryan Suter went down for the season with an ankle injury, but the prolific scoring of the Jets is just too much for this Minnesota team. The Wild may have some of the pieces in place to make a run next year, but the bad luck was too much this season. Jets in 4.