The Winnipeg Jets are set to take to the ice for their first playoff series since relocation. They will be entering the playoffs as the Western Conferences second Wild Card team - which essentially makes them the eight playoff seed, but the Jets are better than a traditional eighth playoff seed.
The Winnipeg Jets are a damn good hockey team!
How good are they?
Really good. In fact, the Winnipeg Jets are the best remaining team in the league by some measures - by some very important measures. That statement doesn't mean much as a stand alone, but it us true. The Winnipeg Jets are among the very best puck possession teams in the league.
This isn't a new development either. The Jets have been near the top of the league's possession rankings all year. The growth of young centers Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry combined the addition of Matthieu Perreault (also, the fact that none of them are Olli Jokinen) has lifted the Jets forward group into the plus. The growth of Jacob Trouba did the same for the defensive core. The Jets are a high end 5 on 5 possession team.
Why should I care about possession stats?
Possession stats, specifically Score-Adjusted Corsi, are the most predictive statistical measure we have. Corsi is simply the differential of shot attempts that a team accumulates over time. Basically, if you can keep the puck and generate more shot attempts than the opposition you will win more often than you lose on average. These numbers are built based on shot attempt in 5-on-5 situations - where the vast majority of action takes place.
Does possession matter in the playoffs? It sure does. This piece from Habs Eye on the Prize is a couple years old, but it shows - in a very visual way - why possession matters in the playoffs.
How much have the Winnipeg Jets pushed possession?
The Jets have been among the best in the league for most of the season. On the year, the Jets have amassed a Score-Adjusted Corsi percentage of 53.6% - this is the fourth best percentage in the league - with only LA, Chicago and Pittsburgh ahead of them.
Fourth best in the league is pretty darn good, but it gets better. The Winnipeg Jets we the league's second best team by this measure across the last 30 games. The only team ahead of them, the Los Angeles Kings, missed the playoffs. If they can sustain this, there is no reason to believe that the Jets aren't contenders.
Not everything is a rose. Nothing is guaranteed.
Puck possession matters. It is the most predictive stat we have, but we are talking probabilities - we aren't talking destinies. Garret Hohl of Jets Nation went over this recenty and compared the Jets to the LA Kings of a few years back - the Kings team that snuck in as an 8th seed and ran all the way to the cup. The Jets aren't that dominant. They are darn good though.
That isn't to say the Jets are without flaws. Their undoing this year has been their penchant for penalties. Dominating play at 5 on 5 loses its gloss when you grant a team a boat load of time on the powerplay. This increases goals against and removes prime scoring minutes. Luckily for the Jets, NHL refs tend to put away their whistles in the games that matter most.
Will the Jets make a deep run? Who knows. Anything can happen across a small sample of games. All it takes to swing a series is a couple really good (or really bad) games by a goalie. Magic goals and funny bounces can factor in as well. What we do know is that the Jets have controlled the puck all year. The Jets have controlled the puck better than most teams and - over the last 30 games - the Jets have controlled the puck better than any other playoff team. This doesn't destine them for wins, but it tells us they'll have as good a shot as anyone if goaltending, puck luck and special teams all break even. If not, they could be done in four - only time will tell.
This is a good hockey team. I picked this hockey team to go all the way in NHL.com bracket (Jets over Penguins in 6) and I did it entirely with numbers too, no homerism. You can check out the numbers yourself here: Puck on Net - I sorted by Corsi, SA over the last 30 game.
Anyways, Go Jets Go!! Good luck tomorrow night! #Hockey