clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Predators vs. Jets Series Preview: Jets Defense

We take a look at the Jets defensemen here. Note: they’re all really big.

We’ve seen the Winnipeg Jets five times this season. One thing is for certain...they have a solid defense. While their offense might bring the firepower, their defense brings the pain.

Dustin Byfuglien is the most well-known defenseman for Winnipeg. He’s a massive man who eats up big minutes and isn’t afraid to push and shove and scrap.

The first thing I noticed about Winnipeg’s blue line this season is their size. While the Predators choose to use defensemen who are of average height, it seems like the Jets have ridiculously tall and large players manning their blue line. Most of the Jets players are all rather tall and large. Expect a series similar to last year’s against St. Louis with a better goaltender and more than one Vladimir Tarasenko.

Defensive Pairings

Below is a chart of the Winnipeg defensive pairings. Nashville has rotated through d-men because of injury, and Winnipeg has done the same.

hockeyviz.com

This graphic shows the most common defense pairings for Winnipeg. During the season, we primarily saw Josh Morrissey with Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien with Tobias Enstrom, and Dmitry Kulikov with Tyler Myers.

Byfuglien, Morrissey, and Myers are the most heavily deployed defensemen for Winnipeg. Each skated more than 1,290 minutes this season. Dustin Byfuglien leads all Winnipeg defensemen in ice-time.

Ben Chiarot is essentially a 7D for Winnipeg, slotting in during injuries. However, since Kulikov has been injured, we have seen more of Chiarot in 2018.

Joe Morrow and Tucker Poolman have also seen some ice time this season for the Jets. They serve as extra defenders who are able to step in during injury, similar to Nashville’s Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto.

Rookie Sami Niku saw some playing time for Winnipeg toward the end of the regular season. A 2015 draft pick, Niku will likely see more time as his development continues. It takes a while to develop good d-men (see: Nashville).

Defensive Scoring

Byfuglien had 45 points in the regular season, including 8 goals and 37 assists. Tyler Myers had 6 goals and 30 assists.

Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Josh Morrissey, and Jacob Trouba combined for 131 points in the regular season. For reference, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, and Mattias Ekholm combined for 178 points this season; Ellis missed nearly half the season after offseason knee surgery.

Expect Winnipeg’s defense to try to shut down the Nashville defense. Our defensemen like to be part of the play instead of simply manning the blue line. The Jets will have to forecheck hard to beat the Nashville defense on a rush.

Against Minnesota in the first round, defensemen played an expected role in scoring for Winnipeg. Tyler Myers had two goals and Jacob Trouba had one goal. Byfuglien had 5 assists against Minnesota in the first round.

Penalties

In terms of penalty minutes, Winnipeg’s defensemen are most likely to find themselves in the box. Byfuglien, Chiarot, and Morrow all have more than 10 penalty minutes in the postseason.

In the regular season, Byfuglien led the team with 112 penalty minutes. He’s followed by Myers, Morrissey, Trouba, and Chiarot. All four had fewer than 45 penalty minutes.

Josh Morrissey was suspended one game in the Minnesota series for a cross-check to Eric Staal’s head. Expect more scrappiness and dirty plays in this series from all Winnipeg players.

Perhaps Nashville can flip the script and force the Jets to take stupid penalties in this series.

Injuries

Toby Enstrom is questionable for the beginning of this series. He’s been diagnosed with a super specific “lower-body injury” and his status is currently unknown. Our friends at Arctic Ice Hockey note that Enstrom is skating with the team, but we won’t know his status for Game 1 until closer to Game 1.

Dmitry Kulikov is receiving treatment for a back injury and is unlikely to play.

hockeyviz.com

With this graphic, it’s easy to understand why Winnipeg fans are happy to have a fully healthy team (mostly) in the playoffs. Their top defensemen have each missed some time due to injury this season, yet they still finished in second place. Josh Morrissey and Tyler Myers remained healthy, providing some stability on a fluctuating blue line.

Final Thoughts

Winnipeg will be doing all it can to prevent Nashville’s blue line from participating in the play. Nashville will have to do the same by limiting the speed of Winnipeg’s defense and limiting how they participate in a rush.

Expect to hate players like Byfuglien by the end of the series, especially if one of the bigger Jets d-men takes out a Predators player with an injury. This series is going to be a bruiser. Maybe we’ll see more of this:

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

All statistics are courtesy of hockeyviz.com, hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, and ESPN.com.