Quality over quantity.
It’s a phrase you probably heard from your high school English teacher when you turned in a 10-page essay that was supposed to be five pages long.
For the Winnipeg Jets, that was the golden phrase on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators, as they came away with a 5-1 win despite a possession advantage in favor of the Predators.
The Predators won the shot attempt battle in two out of three periods and in the game as a whole according to Natural Stat Trick, but it was the quality of the chances that put the Jets over the top. While Nashville owned 52.75% of the shot share, Winnipeg owned 64.29% of the high-danger scoring chances.
That gap was the difference between a tightly-contested thriller and a game that was over by the midpoint of the third period. That’s because the disparity between the shot chances and high-danger chances came about as a result of issues on both sides of the ice.
“I can’t paint it with one brush,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “There’s something different on a bunch of them, whether it be a rebound or there’s different things that went on with each goal. We gave up a little bit too much, but the bigger story for me is the quality chances on the other end as well. The game’s hanging around at a low-scoring game and you have opportunities in the first period where we’re not getting to where we need to be, same thing in the second period.”
“They blocked a lot of shots, you’ve got to give them credit. A lot of times things can explode when you do put pucks at the net and they hit the net, they can explode in there. They didn’t, they got blocked, they got moved off to the side and we weren’t able to generate any more from there.”
Even when the Jets weren’t scoring, they were able to generate scoring chances directly in front of goaltender Pekka Rinne. The heat map from Natural Stat Trick shows just how much of Winnipeg’s offense was generated from high-danger areas.
The game could have snowballed a lot quicker if it weren’t for a couple of key Rinne saves on Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine in the slot and another brilliant offside challenge by Predators video coach Lawrence Feloney to keep the score close in the first period.
On the Jets’ second goal, Mason Appleton was able to walk right down the slot and tap in a feed in front from Joe Morrow. On the third goal, Bryan Little tapped in a wide-open rebound directly in front of the net. Players went undetected into high-percentage areas, and it cost Nashville.
“I don’t remember each goal and each play, but we always talk about the front of our net,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “Those are obviously the most dangerous places on the ice, and like you said, if they all came from there, then clearly we weren’t defending well enough.”
Overall, this was a game that was a solid test for a Predators team that now sits four points back of Winnipeg in the Central Division standings, but still a solid 11 points clear of the playoff cutoff. For a team that has much higher aspirations than just to be playing in April and May, this game was a solid demonstration of where they are right now and where they want to be.
“They’re the team we’re chasing right now,” Ellis said. “We didn’t see them for awhile, obviously we had success the first time we played them. It’s a different part of the year, tonight was a different game and they came out and they battled hard, I thought a lot of times we battled hard. It’s a bit of a test for us and tonight we failed. Hopefully the next one, we won’t.”