Two of the league’s best teams collide tonight, as the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets jostle for playoff positioning in what is essentially a four-point game. The stakes? With a win, the Jets could have a game in hand and a four-point lead over their rivals, while Nashville could tie Winnipeg in points if they come out on top. Nashville is riding one of the league’s stingiest defenses to its success, while the Jets boast one of the deepest and most dangerous offensive group in the NHL, which makes for a fascinating matchup.
One of the things that makes the Jets so dangerous is their ability to score from anywhere on the ice. Even if you’re the stingiest team when it comes to allowing high-danger chances, Winnipeg can still beat you from outside better than most teams. The Jets have scored 44 goals from outside the slot (excluding empty net goals) placing them 10th in the league. Their ability to score from distance or from sharp angle adds an extra dimension to the league’s 7th-best offense.
The Jets’ collection of snipers will have to go up against one of the league’s top goalies in Pekka Rinne. Rinne has been unreal in net for the Preds over the last few games, giving up just two goals in his last three, and has been a rock for them all season. He’s cooled off a bit from last season’s Vezina performance, but there’s no doubt he’s still one of the league’s best, even in his age-36 season.
With elite talent on both sides and playoff positioning on the line, this matchup already feels like a playoff game. The Jets currently lead the head-to-head season series 2-1 and, if the two do meet in the playoffs, this matchup could be what decides who has home-ice advantage. With both teams’ arenas ranking among the 5 best atmospheres in the league, according to the NHLPA poll, it could be what ultimately tips the scales.