Jets @ Preds: Game 7

Funny that I’m a Leafs fan and the first article I’m going to write will be about the Jets and the Preds.

Full disclosure, I didn’t watch game 7. I was at the Jays game, watching them getting fed by the Mariners. But I was tracking the score on my phone the entire game to keep up.

1-0 Jets. Good start

2-0 Jets. Okay still early.

2-1 now. Wow, I must be missing a hell of a game.

Then I get a notification:

“Predators’ Pekka Rinne pulled after Jets bury two early, ugly goals.”

Bold move, Laviolette. And it looked like it worked when I looked into it, recharged the Preds in some sense, because later in the period comes a power play goal from Pernell-Karl Subban.

Slow second period until we approach the end, now it’s 3-1 Jets and I’m impressed. My buddy with me at the Jays game, he picked the Preds.

We are both general hockey fans. Leafs above everyone else. We sat through all the nonsense, so we grew to appreciate other teams. Ryan Johansen was a great add to the Preds, fits in well there. That team is good – experienced, skilled, gritty. The problem here is that the Jets are arguably more skilled, bigger on the back-end but slightly lacking in experience.

This over-analysis of other clubs is what happens when you love a game but for years your home team has perpetually sucked (until recently.)

4-1 Jets.

Waiting for the train home I get this notification:

“Jets reach Western Conference semifinal after Game 7 win over Predators”

5-1 final. Crazy that we are looking at a semifinal consisting of the Jets, who won the first playoff series in franchise history, against the expansion Golden Knights. Might stay up for some of these 9pm starts.

So after the game, on the train home, I’m looking at the box score. I started with the Preds and just by looking at time on ice I could identify their third defensive pairing, and who played on the fourth line.

Subban played 28:02. That’s damn near half a game. I can barely walk up four flights of stairs let alone 28 minutes of NHL hockey. Seven Predators players breached the 20 minute mark. Three of the Preds played under 10 minutes.

Only two Jets played over 20 minutes: Trouba at 20:31 and Byfuglien at 25:43. There’s your top pairing d-men, that checks out.

No Jets played less than 12:31 – that player was Paul Stastny. The player on your team with the least ice time puts up three points.

And that’s when I realized the difference. Maurice trusts all of his players. He can get offence from all four lines and spread out ice time to reduce fatigue. That, my friend, is depth.

I always thought Nashville to be a deep team, but obviously Laviolette didn’t trust his fourth line guys to get them back in it.

Today, I watched the condensed game. It’s impossible to watch every NHL game, so I’ve resorted to watching the 8-10 minute clips on the NHL app with gamecenter.

When the score was 2-1, that game was not close. Winnipeg outwitted the Predators at every turn. It wasn’t utter domination, but they had an extra step every time they needed it. I didn’t think the goals on Rinne were as bad as the broadcast crew let on, they were more on the side of Winnipeg luck.

Myers placed that shot the only place it could possibly sneak in. Rinne was pretty snug to the post and it found the right 3 inches to sneak by him.

The second goal wasn’t luck it was just Stastny. Backhand second chance on his own shot and tossed it over Rinne. Ryan Ellis applied no pressure to Stastny and Josi was going around the net trying to pinch from the other side. Ellis left Stastny a wide open path to the front of the net and Josi couldn’t muscle him off the puck in time.

I’m not sure I would have pulled him. I may have at the end of the period. But I don’t make the big NHL coach dollars.

Let’s look forward. Jets and Golden Knights. A good friend of mine – a life-long Leafs fan who has suffered though more than I have – said he may give up on hockey if and expansion team wins the Stanley Cup. We aren’t there yet but I’ve stopped saying “Vegas is going to get a wake up call” because I think they may already be awake, and perhaps their opponents should be worried.

We know what the Jets are. The Golden Knights are all second and third liners, for the most part. Yeah, you think you’d be giving up some skill with second and third liners on your first line, but that also means your fourth line is better than it should be. And if you couldn’t see the Marchessault-Smith combo coming, then you didn’t pay enough attention to the Panthers under Gallant.

It’s going to be a good series. I give the Jets the edge everywhere but in the crease and in the measure of heart. That Vegas team is a fairy tale and I’m loving it.

But please bring the cup back to Canada.

-Robert Zagozewski

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