This is the first time the Wild has faced off against the Jets in the playoffs, but coach Bruce Boudreau has been in Winnipeg before for the postseason.
Three years ago, when he was behind the bench for the Ducks, Anaheim swept the Jets, and getting ahead of the home team was key – an advantage the Wild will look to create when its first-round series gets underway Wednesday at Bell MTS Place.
Puck drop is 6 p.m.
“It was loud until we got the lead,” Boudreau recalled about that 2015 playoff series. “The key is to get the lead and keep them quiet. But it’s tough to do because they got a lot of hope this year, and they’ve been at the top of the league the whole year. So I’m pretty sure they’re gearing themselves up for a long run.”
Winnipeg’s regular-season prowess (it exceeded 50 wins and nearly finished with 115 points) has it pegged as the favorite in this matchup, a distinction that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Wild. But there’s still a sense of confidence among the group, perhaps a feeling indicative of its experience with 15 players logging at least 20 games of playoff experience; the Jets have just five players with those credentials.
“You’d have to be blind not to see if, especially with Canadian TV everywhere,” Boudreau said of the Wild’s underdog status. “But I’m sure we know where Winnipeg stands, and rightfully so. They’ve won nine out of 10. They’re second overall in the league. I can see why teams are picking them all. We’re here. We’re going to play this game. We’re glad we’re invited to play, so we’ll give it our best shot.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon remains a game-time decision, but it seems likely he’ll suit up.
“I don’t expect him to play 30 minutes tonight if he plays,” Boudreau said. “But I expect him to be Jared Spurgeon.”
Up front, winger Jordan Greenway will make his playoff debut on the third line. The Wild opted to go with Greenway instead of the more experienced winger in Tyler Ennis because of Winnipeg’s size. Greenway also has experience playing in meaningful games this season.
“If he was just fresh out of college, it might not have been what it is,” Boudreau said. “But he's been in the Olympics. He's been in the World Juniors, and he played really important minutes in both of those situations. So I didn't think it was going to be a big factor with the loudness of the crowd or anything like that tonight.”
Projected Wild lineup:
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Jordan Greenway-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy-Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
Projected Jets lineup:
Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers-Paul Stastny-Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault-Bryan Little-Joel Armia
Andrew Copp-Adam Lowry-Brandon Tanev
Josh Morrissey-Jacob Trouba
Joe Morrow-Dustin Byfuglien
Ben Chiarot-Tyler Myers
Key Wild numbers:
71: Career playoff points for winger Zach Parise.
5-6-1: The Wild’s record in its last 12 trips to Winnipeg.
.905: Goalie Devan Dubnyk’s save percentage in 17 career games against the Jets.
4: Points for winger Jason Zucker in the season series vs. Winnipeg.
14-6-5: The Wild’s record since Feb.17.
Key Jets numbers:
0: Playoff wins for the Jets in franchise history.
5: Players who have played in 20 or more playoff games.
5-2: Goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s career record against the Wild.
8: Jets who scored 15 or more goals this season.
9-1: Winnipeg’s record in the last 10 games of the regular season.
Latest on the Jets:
Expectations are high in Winnipeg, with the Jets coming off their best season in franchise history. They finished the regular season with the best home record in the NHL at 32-7-2, and they haven’t lost at home since Feb. 27. Winnipeg’s goaltending has been spectacular; Hellebuyck broke franchise records for wins (44), shutouts (six) and save percentage (.923). Offensively, the Jets are deep. Eight players scored at least 15 goals, and winger Patrik Laine had the second-most in the NHL with 44.