Playoff picture coming into focus for Jets
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The playoff picture for the Winnipeg Jets is starting to come into focus.
And a 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, along with a 3-2 shootout loss by the Calgary Flames a few hours later, has put the local club in full control.
But it’s not over yet.
Winnipeg occupies the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference, with 91 points and three games remaining. Calgary has 90 points, and just two games left. Nashville has 88 points, and three games left.
The Jets own potential tiebreak scenarios over both the Flames and Predators.
To put it simply, Winnipeg’s magic number to clinch is now three points, as in the number of points they gain over the final three regular-season contests, OR the number of points each of the Flames and Predators fail to gain over their final two and three games, respectively.
Here’s how that could happen:
The Jets host the San Jose Sharks on Monday night at Canada Life Centre (6 p.m. CT), and a win (either by regulation or in overtime/shootout) would really shift the focus to Alberta. The Flames are hosting the Predators (8:30 p.m.) CT, and that game would instantly become an elimination one.
The loser, regardless of whether it happens in regulation or in overtime/shootout, would be done. The winner would still have a pulse, albeit faint.
If Calgary were to still be alive, they would have to beat those same Sharks on Wednesday night, and hope the Jets lose both their remaining games in regulation (Tuesday at Minnesota, Thursday at Colorado). Just one more point gained by the Jets, or one point lost by the Flames, and it would be lights out.
If Nashville were to still be alive, they would have to win both remaining games (Thursday at home to Minnesota, Friday at home to Colorado) while also hoping that the Jets lose both their remaining games in regulation. Just one more point gained by the Jets, or one point lost by the Predators, and it would be season over.
However, if the Jets were to lose to the Sharks, the situation becomes a lot more muddied. Winnipeg would still control their situation — you could argue they don’t deserve it considering they’ve already lost twice to the sad-sack squad from San Jose this season — but the pressure would really be amped up for those final two road games, against top-tier opponents.
Colorado and Minnesota are still jockeying for positioning in the top three of the Central Division, with the top spot still up for grabs. There’s a good chance they’ll still have plenty to play for, and no shortage of incentive to win, as the week progresses.
“We know what we need to do here the last three games. We will be ready for those,” Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said following the pivotal win over the Predators.
The Jets are now assured of finishing no higher than the second wildcard spot, by virtue of the Seattle Kraken win on Saturday night that puts the first wildcard spot out of reach.
That means that if Winnipeg qualifies for the playoffs, they are guaranteed to play the No. 1 team in the Western Conference. There are four potential opponents still in play.
The Vegas Golden Knights lead the way (107 points with two games remaining), with the Edmonton Oilers (105 points with two games remaining, and owning the tiebreak over Vegas) in hot pursuit. Colorado and the Dallas Stars both have a mathematical chance of overtaking them but would need plenty of help.
Minnesota, the Los Angeles Kings and Seattle are also playoff bound, but can’t finish No. 1.
The playoffs begin on Monday April 17. But, depending on how the next few days shake out, it’s possible the Jets have to wait until Friday evening (when Nashville hosts Colorado) to see if they even qualify and who they would play.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.