by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
The Winnipeg Jets’ top-heavy lineup and over-reliance on goalie Connor Hellebuyck might be catching up to them at the midpoint of the NHL season.
At the all-star break, the Jets are by no means out of the playoff race, but will need a significant surge over their final 31 games to earn a third consecutive postseason berth. Their 25-22-4 record has them tied for fourth with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division, four points behind the Dallas Stars, who have three games in hand. The Jets are also three points adrift of the Vegas Golden Knights for the final Western Conference wild card berth. They are on an 86.8-point pace, which is UNDER a preseason projection of 95.5 points on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Hellebuyck has earned an all-star selection by virtue of being the busiest goalie in the NHL, posting a 21-16-4 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and .917 save percentage while leading the league in saves (1,175), shots faced (1,281) and shutouts (4). Fellow all-star Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor are both among the NHL’s top 20 scorers, while Blake Wheeler and fellow forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine all have over 35 points.
The Jets’ slide out of a playoff spot stems from having a 5-10-2 record since December 17. A lack of complementary scoring – no forward beyond the aforementioned big five has managed to score – has made it difficult for Winnipeg to keep pace against strong opposition, as they rank 25th in the 31-team NHL in five-on-five shot-attempt percentage (48.0 percent). Thanks in large part to Hellebuyck, the Jets are tied for sixth in the NHL with 15 wins in games where they have been outshot, but that could be tough to continue. The all-star goalie has covered up well for some defensive deficiencies at even strength, but the penalty killing unit is ranked 28th in the NHL at 74.4 percent.
In Stanley Cup odds, the Jets are now a +4000 darkhorse after opening at +2250 prior to the season. The top three teams in the Central Division are all drawing notice from oddsmakers. While two Eastern Conference powerhouses, the Tampa Bay Lightning (+800) and Washington Capitals (+800), are co-favorites, the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues (+900) are also near the top of the board at online betting sites, level with the Boston Bruins (+900) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+900). The Colorado Avalanche (+1000) and Dallas Stars (+1400) are two other division rivals of the Jets who are among the contenders.
The Jets come back from the all-star break with a back-to-back, hosting Boston on January 31 before visiting St. Louis on February 1.