With just a handful of games left in the NHL regular season, the Central division leads the way once more. The league-leading Nashville Predators are just three points up on the second place Winnipeg Jets for the division lead. On closer inspection, these two teams are even closer than the standings suggest.
The Winnipeg Jets are Still Flying Under the Radar
One of the best ways to evaluate a team going into the playoffs is to look at their recent form, specifically their adjusted corsi for percentage over the past 25 games. Over that time span the Jets lead the league with a 55.4 CF%, trailing just behind them in third place are the Preds at 53.6 CF%.
The gap widens when you look at expected goals percentage, where again the Jets edge the Predators, this time 57.1% to 54.7%, but unlike adjusted corsi, Winnipeg doesn’t lead the league. Instead, they sit second behind the other playoff team out of the Central division: the Minnesota Wild. And oddsmakers are taking note, such as www.bestbettingbonuses.co.uk.
Special Teams Won’t Make the Difference
With competition tight in the central the division, it’s tough to differentiate between the trio at even-strength, and on the man-advantage, the story is the same.
The Predators put up a middling 7.03 xGF/60, good for 20th in the league. Just behind them is Winnipeg, sitting at 21, with an equally uninspiring 6.93 xGF/60. The Predators are about half as likely to give up a short-handed goal while on the powerplay as the Jets, but Winnipeg has been better at drawing an extra penalty while on the man advantage.
When shorthanded a larger gap exists between the two teams. The Predators are again a middle of the road team sitting 13th allowing 6.93 xGA/60. Dwelling in the basement is the Jets. They give up a shocking 9.38xGA/60 when shorthanded, good for 30th in the league, just better than the NHL-worst New York Islanders.
Goaltending Could Separate Them
Despite the Jets poor xG numbers on the penalty kill their PK% is actually fifth in the league, a sterling 82.8%, slightly higher than the ninth-place 82.2% the Predators boast. The reason for that? Stellar goaltending.
The Jets have been the beneficiaries of a .914 sv% on the penalty kill over the last 25 games, and over the course of the season, they boast a league-leading .906 sv% when shorthanded. Normally this would be the kind of trend that should be taken with a grain of salt, but over 76 games it’s an anomaly worth noting.
At even-strength, the Jets haven’t endured the same amount of success as the Predators over the past 25 games. In that span Nashville leads the league with an impress .938 sv%, while the Jets place eighth, posting a respectable .927 sv%.
Over the course of the season, the Predators continue to enjoy their dominance at even-strength, dipping slightly to a .935 sv%, but still topping the NHL. The Jets falter a bit, dropping to 12th with a .923 sv%.
Overall the Predators have a slight advantage in goal, but the position is by no means a weak-spot for Winnipeg.
Minimizing Patrick Laine
The one area where the Jets may struggle is scoring, particularly one Jet: Patrik Laine. The sharp-shooting Swede has scored 19 of his team-leading 43 goals on the powerplay. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong about scoring on the man-advantage, powerplays are tougher to come by in the later rounds of the playoffs.
With these two teams likely to meet in the second round, it’s worth questioning whether or not the Jet’s biggest offensive threat will have the same quality, and quantity, of opportunities that he’s become used to.
Working is Winnipeg’s favour is their positive penalty differential, 6 over the last 25 games and 3 over the season. In contrast, the Predators sit at -5 over the past 25 games and -20 on the year. In the end discipline, or a lack thereof, could be what ultimately separates these two evenly matched teams.
With the Predators favoured over the Jets to win the Stanley Cup, betting on Winnipeg isn’t the worst idea.
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