If you’ve just lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs or if you’re annoyed at the header of this article, you’re likely thinking, “Sheesh, it’s one game, this is not news, mountain out of a molehill,” etc. And you’d be right in certain cases. You’d be wrong in others, however. No two series are created equal, and some Game 1 defeats were more alarming than others.
Here’s a brief rundown of the Game 1 losers, ranked from most justified in panicking to least.
Throughout the entire regular season, the storyline for the Winnipeg Jets was the same: everything can be clicking, but at times a lack of discipline comes back to haunt them when it matters most. In Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks, that was exactly the case.
For 39:27, the Jets, who took the most penalties of any team in the league during the regular season, had managed to stay out of the box. Then, with only 33 seconds remaining in the second period, Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele took exception to a hack from Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler in front of the net, turned and bopped the Ducks center in the face. If there was a turning point Thursday evening, it was that penalty. Read more
You’ll have to forgive Corey Perry for being quiet heading into the third period of Game 1 against the Winnipeg Jets. He was saving his energy for some late-game heroics.
Perry, who managed to find the score sheet in the first period with an early assist, was largely unnoticeable through the 38 minutes that followed Sami Vatanen‘s early first period goal that put the Ducks ahead 1-0. But in the third frame, with Anaheim down 2-1, Perry scored to knot the game at two. Then, 12 minutes later, Perry did what he does best: drove to the net, shielded the puck from a defender and scored a hard-nosed tally. Read more
HOW THEY WIN
DUCKS: Though it may sound counterintuitive, the Ducks win when players other than Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are scoring. That’s because it’s a given the dynamic duo will produce with regularity. But it takes more than two prolific offensive players to win against the big boys of the NHL. That’s what cost Anaheim in the second round against Los Angeles last spring – a lack of balanced scoring. The addition of Ryan Kesler is a big boost to the second line and Matt Beleskey moved north of 20 goals for the first time, though 12 of them came in the first 26 games of the season. Anaheim has one of the youngest, most mobile bluelines in the league, led by Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm. They’re adept at moving the puck efficiently and are crafty in the offensive zone. They’re also underrated defensively, as is veteran Francois Beauchemin.
JETS: The Jets make for a miserable opponent thanks to their grinding style under coach Paul Maurice. They’re a top-five SAT Close team, consistently the aggressor in generating shot attempts. Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler combine size and scoring touch on the wings, Mark Scheifele continues to develop as a two-way center and Michael Frolik excels in his checking role. The Jets ‘D’ corps, when healthy, is versatile and punishing. Dustin Byfuglien will earn a few Norris Trophy votes after a dominant return from playing forward last season. Towering Tyler Myers looks reborn after arriving from Buffalo in the Evander Kane trade. Jacob Trouba’s offense hasn’t sparkled like it did in his rookie year, but his bruising play suits the playoffs. And hey, goalies Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec have both had hot streaks. Who’s to say one won’t in the playoffs? Read more
In some ways, the most unlikely team in this year’s playoffs carries much of a country’s hopes on its back. The Winnipeg Jets, picked by this publication (ahem) and many other pundits to finish last in their division, are in the playoffs.
And there are some who believe the Jets have what it takes to defeat the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. This corner is not one of them, but there is a sentiment that the Jets are flying high and the playoff-underachieving Ducks are once again ripe to be upset. Read more
Stanley Cup playoff hockey has returned to Winnipeg and if the Jets are going to upset the potent Anaheim Ducks, they’ll do it with depth, not through one line or one superstar. One of Winnipeg’s most dangerous players since the trade deadline is right winger Drew Stafford, who came over from Buffalo in the Evander Kane deal. Stafford, a 30-goal scorer with the Sabres in 2010-11, had fallen on hard times offensively in more recent days. But thanks to a couple of high-profile friends, he has rediscovered his game.
The Frozen Four is in the books and it was a classic, with Providence College winning its first-ever hockey title over Boston University. But the season still might not be over for Terriers frosh Jack Eichel, as he and Nashville pick Jimmy Vesey of Harvard were expected to play for Team USA at the World Championship in Switzerland. Meanwhile, we’re getting very close to the world under-18s as well in the Czech Republic. With CHL playoffs still going strong, let’s cruise around the prospect world once again.
At points in the last four seasons, it’s seemed as though the Winnipeg Jets faithful would have rallied around anyone who gathered up pitchforks and torches to run Ondrej Pavelec out of town. Now, it wouldn’t be so strange if some of those same fans were thinking about making a purchase of a Pavelec sweater.
Things were at their low point for Pavelec and the Jets when, in a March 10 game, a shot from center ice by St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman beat Pavelec in the midst of a miraculous comeback by the Jets. Myself a Winnipegger, the game was on at a local spot I was at that evening. When Jackman’s shot found net – and I solemnly swear this is true – a man wearing a Pavelec jersey immediately took it off, got up and left.
That goal, one that had Jets fans crying for Michael Hutchinson to get back between the pipes, was exactly one month ago. Funny what three straight shutouts will do for the perception of a goaltender, isn’t it? Read more