Playoff-Bound Jets Will Contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup

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Img 1871 Cr Dustin Krahn
Dustin Krahn

The Winnipeg Jets are heading back to the NHL playoffs, and they’re doing so in incredible fashion. From Patrik Laine putting up a 15-game point streak (the longest point streak by any teenager in NHL history) to the Jets setting a new franchise record for wins in a single season (49 and counting), the month of March was full of positive storylines.

All in all, the Jets posted the fifth-best record last month, going 10–3–1 in 14 games, including two separate win streaks of four and six games respectively. They currently sit second in the Central Division and are likely to stay there as the red-hot Predators sit five points ahead of the team with only three games remaining as of April 2.

Though there are still a few games remaining on the season, it’s looking more and more likely that the Jets will face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs, a matchup Jets fans should be anxiously anticipating.

Against the Wild this season, the Jets were 3–1–0, outscoring the Wild 14–10 in those four games. Statistically, the Jets would be huge favourites in a series against the Wild, who hold the league’s second-worst shot attempt percentage of 47 percent. The Jets, on the other hand, have soared up the puck possession standings. They currently sit seventh in the league with a shot attempt percentage of nearly 52 percent.

But perhaps what’s most interesting about this matchup is the fact that the two teams hold the two best home records in the league.

The Jets closed out a frantic March with an emphatic 3–1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with all four goals coming in the second period. Though the Jets dominated when they needed to in the second, the game was more notable for the way the Jets and Connor Hellebuyck really shut things down in the third period. Hellebuyck proved once again why he should be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s best goaltender each season. He stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced to add onto his coming-out party record of 42–11–9. Most impressively, in Hellebuyck’s 65 appearances this season he has only lost back-to-back games twice.

There was a calmness and coolness in the Jets game all night, almost as if they knew they would win if they played their game and kept on top of the Leafs defensively. The Jets sit fourth in the league in defence, having allowed just 210 goals through 79 games. That’s a huge improvement after being the league’s fourth-worst defensive team last season.

Hellebuyck may have been the hero at the Air Canada Centre, but the rest of the month saw many different Jets take the spotlight.

For the first half of the month, the hero was obvious: it was none other than Patrik Laine. The 2016 second overall pick scored the second-most goals in March, with 12 goals, trailing only Connor McDavid, who had 13. With 43 goals on the season, Laine trails only Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals by two goals for the league lead.

The second half of the month saw Kyle Connor show off the offensive potential he displayed at university. The 21-year-old Michigan native scored back-to-back game-winning goals in overtime against the Ducks and the Kings. Though he most likely won’t win the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s most impressive rookie, he most certainly gave voters something to think about as they get ready to head to the ballots. With 29 goals, Connor is currently tied for the rookie lead in goals with injured Canucks forward Brock Boeser.

As we creep closer to the end of the season, it’s hard to put into perspective just how good the Jets have been in the 2017–18 season. The Jets surprised many across the league by becoming a top-five defensive team while also remaining a top-ten offensive team.

This article is too short to showcase all the amazing things being done on this team. Heck, I still have yet to talk about how outstanding Blake Wheeler has been. Forwards Bryan Little, Matthieu Perrault, and Nik Ehlers have also been neglected in these monthly articles because there’s just too many other things to talk about. And let’s not forget Paul Stastny, who put up 11 points in his first 15 games as a Jet. 

Nonetheless, this is nothing but good news for a Jets team that has finally pieced it all together. After having missed the playoffs in six of the team’s first seven years back home, it’s nice to see the patient management style of general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff finally pay off.

Get ready as the Jets prepare to contend for the greatest trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup.

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