The Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks meet for Game 1 on Thursday night in what is expected to be one of the bigger mismatches in series in the Western Conference. Can the Jets pull a surprise on the NHL betting lines in Game 1 and make this a series?
The Winnipeg Jets Can Win Because…
The Ducks home record is a bit overrated. Yes, they are 26-15 but they have been squeaking by with a lot of close games. On the season, the Ducks average just 2.73 goals per game at home while allowing 2.63. The goals scored is 21st in the NHL in terms of home scoring and the goals allowed are the 12th worst. That means the Jets have an opening here starting in Game 1.
The other main factor that the Jets have going for them is the play of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. He has been on another level since the All-Star break, posting a 1.98 GAA and a .932 save percentage. If he continues to play like that, the Jets are going to have a series chance to win Game 1.
The Anaheim Ducks Can Win Because…
Pavelec is not likely to play well. For his career, Pavelec has dropped four of five meetings with the Ducks. During that span, he has posted a .900 save percentage and a lofty 3.53 GAA. If the Jets gameplan is to rely on Pavelec, it doesn’t look like that will work out so well.
Anaheim has won all three meetings between the teams this season and had virtually no problem in terms of offense. They have scored at least four goals in each meeting this season and in four straight meetings overall. They have actually won five of the last six matchups between the sides.
The Jets made the playoffs because they’re a decent but not great team that feasted on teams below .500. They were 25-14 against teams with a losing record and 18-25 on the season against winning teams. At the same time, Anaheim was 25-17 against teams above .500. That comparison shows you just how different the two sides were when facing quality opponents.
And while some might want to question the Ducks home record, the truth is that the Jets are not a great road team (20-21). The Ducks home-ice advantage is in fact valuable and they’ll prove it in Game 1.
There are some interesting stats that really point in the Ducks favor in this one. They are 11-1 this season when at home with a total of five, so that shows just how strong they are in perceived low-scoring affairs at home. Also, the Ducks have won eight of 11 when having three or more days rest.
With a price tag of -144 on the NHL betting odds, I’m willing to take a shot with the Ducks with my NHL picks even though it’s a little more juice than I normally like to lay. This is a good matchup for them, they are at home and the series history is on their side.
NHL Pick: Ducks -144 at Pinnacle