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Know Thy Enemy: Winnipeg Forward Preview

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Time to take a quick look at the weapons that the Jets are sending towards Southern California airspace.

Top goal scorer Blake Wheeler leads the Jet offense into Anaheim on Thursday
Top goal scorer Blake Wheeler leads the Jet offense into Anaheim on Thursday
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Line Combinations

(estimation based on war-on-ice shift chart from 4/9 game vs Colorado, as leading scorers Andrew LaddBlake Wheeler and Bryan Little were rested in the final regular season game)

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Drew StaffordMark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Matheiu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Lee Stempniak

Jiri Tlusty - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Injuries

Mathieu Perreault - lower-body injury, day-to-day

How Did Their Season Go?

The Jets' offense has essentially stayed the way it's been over the last few years: statistically mediocre. Their 2.72 goals per game during the 2014-15 campaign is only a slight improvement on their 2.67 and 2.62 marks, respectively, from the two seasons before. Despite holding a solid position within the middling ranks of the NHL in this regard, Winnipeg still has a handful of guys who know how to score. Unlike the Ducks, who have three guys who have over 40 points on the year (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler), the Jets have seven. Even with the depth of the team taking a hit when General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dealt Evander Kane to Buffalo after some team conduct issues, there are still four guys who surpassed the 48 points that Kane was on pace for. Blake Wheeler ended the season as the team's leading goal scorer with 26, while Andrew Ladd led the team in assists (38) and points (62).

Stats vs. Ducks

Name Games vs. Ducks Goals Assists Points
Andrew Ladd 3 2 1 3
Mathieu Perreault 3 0 3 3
Bryan Little 3 1 1 2
Mark Scheifele 3 1 1 2
Jacob Trouba 2 1 1 2
Blake Wheeler 3 0 2 2
Adam Lowry 3 0 2 2
Michael Frolik 3 0 1 1
Mark Stuart 3 0 1 1
Toby Enstrom 1 0 1 1

Top Three Threats to Anaheim

1) Speed and size. Winnipeg has a solid combination of both, which never bodes well for the opposition. You may recall the Ducks' efforts this season against the quicker Eastern teams like the Penguins (0-2, 11 goals allowed), the Rangers (0-2, 11 goals allowed), and the Lightning (0-2, 9 goals allowed). Even though Anaheim swept the season series with Winnipeg, they still allowed 2.67 goals a game. Not a crippling number, but one that needs to be improved nevertheless. The big difference between teams like the three aforementioned and the Jets is the fact that the latter didn't (and still might not) have a solidified #1 goalie that they could lean on.

As far as the brawn aspect goes, most of you likely remember Ryan Garbutt from last year's quarterfinal against Dallas. Garbutt potted three goals in the six-game series while simultaneously throwing his weight around whenever he had a chance, making him incredibly irritating to the Ducks and their fans. Wheeler, Ladd, and Thorburn all have over 70 penalty minutes on the season; neither of them are afraid to get down and dirty either.

2) Special teams. It's no secret that the Ducks' power play resembles hot garbage at 28th in the NHL. A lot of people believe that strong power play and penalty kill units are crucial to postseason success, and if that's indeed the case, Anaheim might have a little bit of trouble bringing their abysmal PP conversion percentage back from the dead against the league's 13th ranked penalty killing team. With such a small threat, it wouldn't seem that Winnipeg would be taking a huge risk by sending a guy to the sin bin every now and again, so in theory, they will be able to take a few chances with that physical play from their forwards (and Dustin Byfuglien).

3) Depth. Beating a dead horse here, but with such relative continuity among their top six scorers (seven if you include the injured Perreault), the Jets are a little tougher to deal with than the Ducks, whose first line unsurprisingly accounts for a hefty amount of their goals. Their top two lines are dangerous from side to side, and there's not one skater in particular that sticks out as the main priority for the Ducks' defense to key on.

Top Three Ways to Beat Winnipeg's Forwards

1) Fight fire with fire. Even though the Jets have arguably a deeper offense than the Ducks, Anaheim still has a better one. The Ducks offense is better than the Winnipeg defense, and the same could be said on the flip side, meaning the onus behind a series win lies with whatever offense plays better than the opposing goalie. If these games come down to a firefight, which I expect at least once in this series, I would much rather have Frederik Andersen over Ondrej Pavelec or Michael Hutchinson.

2) Keep it close. One of the big story lines surrounding the Ducks this season is how good they've been in one-goal games (33-1-7). Winnipeg, on the other hand, posted an 18-8-13 record in the same situation. The Jets only have a .653 winning percentage when scoring first (21st in the league) and .676 when they lead after 20 minutes (25th). Anaheim has a .429 winning percentage when allowing the first goal (7th), so as long as the Ducks don't allow the Jets to open the floodgates, they are never in an unpleasant position.

3) Use Clayton Stoner wisely. A lot easier said than done. Stoner is a slow defenseman, yes, but his purpose is to deal with more physical forwards. Play him too much, and he's bound to get burned by a quicker dude, but don't play him enough, and Winnipeg's bigger skaters could start to become accustomed to bullying the smaller blueliners.