The Winnipeg Jets’ power play unit posed issues for every team it faced this season, which is why they finished with a 23.4 percent success rate, fifth-best in the NHL. Adding Paul Stastny before the trade deadline just made things even more unfair.
Such was the problem for the Minnesota Wild in their Game 1 loss Wednesday night. The Jets’ power play scored the opening goal by causing the Wild’s penalty kill unit to try and figure out who to spend more attention on. For Mikael Granlund, he chose to cheat closer to Patrik Laine — understandably so — who was setting up in his office in the circle to Devan Dubnyk’s right. But that decision, along with Winnipeg’s spacing, freed up room for Blake Wheeler to find Mark Scheifele between the circles.
“If they’re cheating on me, then Mark is going to be open and they have to pay for it,” Laine said afterward. “Those guys, it’s not just a one-guy power play. We have all five guys who can score. We are going to make them pay if they’re going to cheat, so much.”
It’s not just Laine or Scheifele — it’s Stastny, Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler the Wild have to worry about when the top unit is on the ice. How do you scheme against that? Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has seen this before.
“It’s very similar to a Washington [Capitals] setup,” he said on Friday ahead of Game 2 (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC live stream). “They’ve got all the right sticks facing all the right directions. It’s a difficult power play to stop. Stastny can make the good play from down low. The best way to do it is to not take any penalties. It’s not an easy task, but it’s not like we don’t know what they’re doing, either.”
Not taking penalties has been an issue all year for Minnesota. They were shorthanded 272 times during the regular season, fifth-most in the NHL. Their penalty kill units were fine, killing off 81.3 percent of those power plays. But during their four meetings prior to the playoffs, the Jets’ extra man unit was successful on five of 13 opportunities against the Wild, and then went 1-for-2 in Game 1.
You can bet there was plenty of time spent during video sessions since Wednesday focusing on figuring out a way to limit the time and space the Jets can create with the extra man.
“We made a mistake that we won’t make again,” Boudreau said.