Here are the matchups for the Golden Knights-Jets series

Updated May 11, 2018 - 9:17 pm

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Golden Knights went 2-1 against the Winnipeg Jets in the regular season.

But it has been awhile since the Knights faced the Jets, and Winnipeg has a different look from the last time they met.

So who has the edge in the Western Conference Final?

Forwards

The Knights had strong play from their top two lines in the second round against San Jose, particularly from William Karlsson. Later in the series, the bottom six forwards played better and helped the Knights advance.

The Jets are explosive with numerous weapons. It starts with center Mark Scheifele and right wing Blake Wheeler, who are 1-2 in team playoff scoring, Scheifele leads the Jets with 16 points (11 goals, five assists), and Wheeler has a team-best 12 assists and 15 points.

The addition of center Paul Stastny has paid off. He added scoring and a strong forecheck playing alongside Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehilers. Laine, who is dangerous whenever he has the puck, has just three goals, and Ehlers has yet to score through two rounds. So the Jets might need more production out of that line. The player who has given Winnipeg a boost is fourth-line left wing Brandon Tanev, who has four goals.

Knights coach Gerard Gallant’s juggling of his lines paid off against San Jose. He returned David Perron to the second line, dropped Alex Tuch to Cody Eakin’s third line and inserted Ryan Reaves on the fourth line after Will Carrier got hurt in Game 5. Gallant probably will keep those units together at the start of the series, but he could bring back Tomas Nosek or Tomas Tatar if anyone struggles.

Edge: Jets

Defensemen

The Knights don’t have anyone with the skill set of the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien. He’s big, strong, fast, hits hard and can generate offense. Byfuglien was a force against Nashville and plays major minutes. The Jets also have received strong play from Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, who are adept in the transition game and can move people out from in front of the crease.

The return of Luca Sbisa to the Knights’ lineup against San Jose paid off with strong performances in Games 5 and 6. If he stays healthy, he makes the defensive corps stronger.

Edge: Jets

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury has been the NHL’s best goalie through the first two rounds. He’s making tough saves look routine.

Connor Hellebuyck has been strong for the Jets, and the Vezina Trophy finalist works well with his defensemen and his rebound control is good.

Edge: Golden Knights

Special teams

The Jets have several weapons on the power play, but have scored on only 22.6 percent of their opportunities in the playoffs, which ranks eighth. Still, when Byfuglien is quarterbacking the power play and with Laine, Scheifele, Wheeler and Stastny out there, there’s a lot of pressure on the opponent’s penalty kill.

Having Perron back in the lineup has helped the Knights on the power play. He plays a position near the top of the faceoff circle by the half-wall, much like Jonathan Marchessault does, and both are adept at finding the open man to get a clean shot. The Knights haven’t had much success on their power play in the postseason, ranking last among the remaining teams at 17.5 percent.

But when it comes to killing penalties, the Knights are the best of the remaining four teams. They have an 85 percent success rate and have allowed just six goals in 40 short-handed situations. The Jets have the lowest penalty-killing percentage at 75 percent.

Edge: Golden Knights

Coaching

Paul Maurice was supposedly on the hot seat entering the season in Winnipeg, but all he did was lead the Jets to their best season since returning to the city from Atlanta in 2011. He never panics and stands up for his players. He’s not afraid to make a move.

It’s hard to argue with what Gallant has done. Every move seems to work. He has kept things light and loose, and it shows in the way his players perform after a loss. They have displayed great resiliency and take their cue from him. He doesn’t over-coach, either.

Edge: Golden Knights

Intangibles

The Knights are relatively healthy with only Carrier questionable. They’ve played fewer games (10) than the Jets (12), so they will be rested. It could be a factor in Game 1 after the Jets played Game 7 at Nashville on Thursday night, then traveled back to Winnipeg.

For the first time in the playoffs, the Knights don’t have home-ice advantage. It means Winnipeg would host a Game 7. But home ice hasn’t been much of an advantage in these playoffs.

Gallant doesn’t get to make the last change, but because he rolls out four lines and never gets involved in chess matches, it shouldn’t be an issue on the road. The Knights appear to have a little more depth, giving Gallant more flexibility with his lineup.

Edge: Golden Knights

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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