Vegas was able to get back to its early success as a franchise after missing the playoffs for the first-time last season. The Golden Knights ended up as the best team in the Western Conference with 111 points and will have home ice throughout the West playoffs.
Johnathan Marchessault led the team with 28 goals while Jack Eichel (27) and Reily Smith (26) slotted in right behind. The Knights ended with six 50-point scorers and eight 40-point scorers as Eichel led the team with 66. Chandler Stephenson was one off the team lead notching 65 points. Due to a slew of goaltending injuries, Laurent Brossoit has been announced as the starter for game one. Brossoit is 7-0-3 with a 2.17 goals against average and a .927 save percentage in 11 games this season.
Winnipeg clinched a postseason berth in its final game of the season, eliminating both Calgary and Nashville. The Jets 95 points was the lowest total among qualifying Western Conference teams. Despite being the eight-seed, Winnipeg could make a deep run on the back of its elite goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.
Mark Scheifele topped the Jets in scoring with 42 goals this season while Kyle Connor potted 31. Connor leads Winnipeg in points this season with 80 while Josh Morrissey has grabbed 76. Scheifele and Pierre-Luc Dubois are the only other Jets skaters with over 60 points. Hellebuyck had his typical solid season notching a 37-25-2 record with a 2.49 GAA and a .920 SV% in 64 games. The 29-year-old is what keeps Winnipeg structurally sound.
The Golden Knights and Jets met three times this season with Vegas sweeping the series. Winnipeg did hold its own in the final two games with a pair of one-goal losses including an overtime defeat. These teams have met once in the postseason in their franchise history. Vegas defeated Winnipeg in five games in the 2018 Western Conference Finals: Vegas’ inaugural season.
What to Watch
The first thing to watch will be how the Jets combat the depth of the Golden Knights. Vegas gets scoring from almost everyone in its lineup and the pressure will become relentless at times. If there was a goaltender built to stop an offense that comes in relentless waves, it was Connor Hellebuyck.
The second thing to watch will be the Vegas goaltending situation. The Knights have used four solid goalies this season but will be starting this series with its technical fourth string in Brossoit. Adin Hill and Logan Thompson are still battling injuries while playoff-veteran Jonathan Quick is rostered. It will be a story to watch moving forward as to which players get healthy and who will be in net on a game-to-game basis.
The final thing to watch will be Jack Eichel. It is his first playoff series in his career after being picked number two overall, behind Connor McDavid, in 2015. Eichel will finally get to play on a big stage after a solid season as one of Vegas’ best players.
Prediction: Vegas Golden Knights over the Winnipeg Jets in six games
This series will go longer than it should solely because of Hellebuyck. That being said, the Knights are going to be too much to handle for a Jets team that has underperformed pretty much all season. Vegas will eventually become too much to handle for the Winnipeg defense while the Winnipeg offense will have limited opportunity to score. Hellebuyck steals a game on the road while the Jets win one at home, but it will not be enough