Jets’ Playoff Hopes Take a Hit with Connor & Schmidt in COVID Protocol

The mathematical probability of the Winnipeg Jets making the NHL playoffs is currently less than seven percent. Without doing a thing, those odds just went down.

Connor and Schmidt Test Postive

Prior to Wednesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres both Kyle Connor and Nate Schmidt tested positive for COVID-19 and entered the NHL’s protocol in Buffalo. They will be forced to remain in the United States for five days and will miss the next two games. In a scenario where they have no room for error, the Jets will deeply miss these two players.

Nate Schmidt Kyle Connor Josh Morrissey Winnipeg Jets
Nate Schmidt & Kyle Connor will miss the next two games for the Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Jets. They have only 14 games remaining on the schedule and have slim hopes of grabbing the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. For them to secure that last spot, they have to climb past the Dallas Stars in the standings who are only one point ahead of them but have three valuable games in hand. They also trail the Vegas Golden Knights by two points but have a slight advantage over them in having played one less game to date. To illustrate the climb ahead for the Jets, according to the website the Stars have a 75 percent chance of securing the final playoff spot compared to the Jets who currently sit at less than a seven percent likelihood.

Related: Jets Playoff Hopes Dim Despite Successful Homestand

The real trouble for the Jets in these last 14 games is that their opponents are far from weak. They take on the Colorado Avalanche twice, and also face the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Calgary Flames. When you try to find these teams in the standings you need to look up, as they are all at or near the top of their respective divisions and all can make arguments to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. The Jets’ other problem is that of their remaining 14 games, nine of them are against teams in the Eastern Conference giving them fewer opportunities to gain significantly on their Western Conference foes.

With a 3-2 shootout win last night over the Sabres, the Jets secured two valuable points without Connor and Schmidt. An important win as they kept pace with Vegas who also won via a 3-0 shutout over the Seattle Kraken.

Connor Easily the Jets’ Most Valuable Player

Connor has easily been the Jets’ MVP this season. He is their leading scorer with 82 points (41 goals, 41 assists) which has him tied for seventh in the NHL. His 41 goals are the fifth highest in the league and he is behind only the Leafs’ Auston Matthews in even-strength goals with 31.

His 283 shots on goal are the third highest in the NHL and by playing nearly 22 minutes per game, he sees the ice more often than any other Jets forward. He leads the team with 24 power play points and his three short-handed goals tie him for the top spot in that category with Adam Lowry.

New Jersey Devils Mackenzie Blackwood Winnipeg Jets Kyle Connor
Winnipeg Jets’ Kyle Connor is out of the lineup and in COVID protocol. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade)

The point is, not only is Connor a scoring machine, but he plays all three facets of the game and leads the team in all three of those situations.

Schmidt’s Absence is a Hit to the Jets’ Blue Line Offence

Schmidt is the leading scorer amongst Jets defensemen with 31 points (4 goals, 27 assists) and he also has 11 power play points. He is a defenseman who is able to move the puck fluidly out of the defensive zone and establish the Jets’ transition game well. He is also a leader in the locker room and a constant positive influence on his teammates. His leadership and ability to move the puck cannot be understated. His steady even-strength play and ability to jump into the rush and create scoring opportunities, not to mention his role on the power play, are going to be greatly missed by a team that has a serious hill to climb at the most critical point in the schedule.

The Connor-Schmidt duo have played consistently through an inconsistent season for the team. Schmidt was averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game and had missed only one contest before Wednesday night. Connor was the only Jet to appear in all 67 of the team’s contests prior to the positive test. The Buffalo game marked the first time this season he was not in the lineup.

The Jets are currently in a playoff bind and without two of their major contributors, they could be in a heap of trouble as they head down the stretch. They take on the Maple Leafs tonight in Toronto before hosting the Kings on Saturday and absolutely need four points against teams who themselves are preparing for the playoffs and currently jockeying for position. Getting wins in the next two games promises to be no easy task for the Jets.

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