Monday, 7 May 2018

That Didn't Go Well

It's the situation every hockey wants: an elimination game at home in front of their rabid fans. For the Winnipeg Jets, pushing the Nashville Predators to the brink of elimination in Nashville by a 6-2 score was one thing, but actually closing the deal on BellMTS Place ice meant everything to the Jets' fanbase. In saying that, the Nashville Predators played another nearly-flawless road game in winning 4-0 tonight, forcing a Game Seven back in Nashville on Thursday night.

Say this with me, Winnipeg: breathe.

Yes, losing this game meant that the Predators return home with their confidence renewed, but the Jets should take some solace in the fact that they, like Nashville, have beaten their opposition in their rink twice in this series. And yes, it's a tall order to take three games off a team in their barn, but Winnipeg has won those games by scores of 4-1 and 6-2 in those games. In other words, it's very possible.

The Nashville Predators were the top team in the NHL this season, so expecting them to simply roll over in Game Six was unreasonable. They've been resilient all season long when it comes to rebounding after losses, and didn't lose three games in a row in regulation all season long. This team can play, and their President's Trophy this season is evidence of that.

Nashville scored early which has been an earmark of their success. Magnus Arvidsson's rather weird deflection while crouching came just 1:02 into the game, and that's something the Jets need to address if they hope to win on Thursday. If Nashville is able to stake a lead, they will trap, trap, and trap some more if they score first. If Winnipeg scores first, they'll force Nashville to open more than they seem willing to, and that benefits the Jets and their north-south attack.

Scoring first will also help temper the rabid fans in Nashville who obviously will be cheering their team on in full-force, so taking the crowd out of the game early will help simmer the Nashville fury.I'll give full credit to the fans in Nashville as they have been as raucous as the fans in Winnipeg, so that's something the Jets will have to contend with all night long if they're playing catch-up. Instead, score first, quiet the crowd, and see if one can force the Predators into turnovers as they try to find an equalizer as they open up that defensive shell.

The other thing the Jets need to be far more aware of is the middle of the ice in the defensive zone. Nashville is getting more looks down the middle of the ice at Connor Hellebuyck, and that spells trouble with the skill their forwards have in getting sticks on pucks and finding rebounds. Filip Forsberg's two goals came from the edge of Connor Hellebuyck's crease, and that simply cannot happen if the Jets hope to advance.

Nashville has been successful in exploiting specific lines in this series as the Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson line has given Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot headaches for the six games they've played. That defensive duo will have to be much, much better in their own zone if Peter Laviolette continues to roll his top line out against them. Alternatively, Paul Maurice needs to be very aware of his line matching so that Trouba and Morrissey lead the way in ice-time. If those two can't be the effective shutdown pairing they are through some poor line matching or questionable coaching decisions, the Jets will need an exceptional effort from Myers and Chiarot.

Game Seven will be an outstanding clash between two stellar teams, but it's not unrealistic to think the Jets will advance. They need to play their game by getting out in front and making Nashville match their pace and play. If the Jets can do that, it might be time to start booking flights to Vegas!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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