The Winnipeg Jets, as short as 9/1 to lift the Stanley Cup this year, are genuine contenders for the most prestigious prize in ice hockey. Canadians will be getting behind Winnipeg and the Toronto Maple Leafs this year but the Jets are arguably better equipped for a playoff push. Recent form would certainly support that opinion too…
Paul Maurice’s side had won six out of seven before stumbling a little bit – Winnipeg are now on a two-game losing run. However, there is still plenty of time to build momentum in the run up to the postseason. The Jets, 14/1 with 888Sport for the Stanley Cup, are comfortably the third best team in the Western Conference and playoff glory could be on the cards with a bit of luck.
At the other end of the spectrum, it has been a year to forget for the Chicago Blackhawks and fans will be expecting wholesale changes in the offseason. Too many big-name players have failed to inspire confidence and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see heads roll in free agency. The rebuilding process starts now…
Jets Are The Real Deal
Winnipeg have silenced most of the doubters; it is time to admit that the Jets are the real deal. Maurice’s men have qualified for the playoffs just once in the last six years but another trip to the postseason looks likely in the coming months. Punters should back the Canadian franchise to end their poor run of form here.
The Nashville Predators are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Central Division but Winnipeg are piling the pressure on. Canadian fans will be hoping that the Jets can pip their divisional rivals to top spot but finishing first isn’t the be all and end all. Momentum is much more important than winning the division.
KEY MAN: Patrik Laine. Blake Wheeler may steal the limelight but Patrick Laine is due a big game and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him fire the Jets to victory. The Winnipeg star has notched nine points in his last five games and he could be the one to watch.
Currently second on the team in total points scored, Laine has been very influential at Bell MTS Place for the most part of the campaign. He should have a huge say in the outcome on this contest.
Blackhawks Desperate For Offseason
Have the Chicago Blackhawks been the most disappointing team in hockey this year? You’d be hard pressed to argue against that belief. Rooted to the bottom of the Central Division, Joel Quenneville’s side will not be competing in the playoffs – ending a very successful run of qualifying for the NHL’s postseason.
Winners of the division last year, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong for the organisation this time around. Chicago have the blueprint for success but perhaps a freshen up is required. Big changes could be on the cards in the Windy City in the coming months…
KEY MAN: Patrick Kane. With 66 points in 70 games, Kane has been the one standout player for Chicago. Even then, his record this year is down on previous campaigns – he was once regarded as the most talented hockey star in the NHL. Leading the team in both goals (25) and assists (41), Kane is central to Chicago’s hopes.
A defeat here will spell trouble for Winnipeg – this is a must win game. You cannot afford to drop points against Chicago at this moment in time; and Paul Maurice knows it. The Jets are struggling to inspire confidence but a comfortable win may change the mood at Bell MTS Place.
JETS 4-1 BLACKHAWKS