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Get Ready for the Battle of the Underdogs

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A whiteout crowd from the Jets' 2018 playoff run.

The NHL’s North Division is set to begin the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight. It will be a goaltender duel, a battle of the underdogs… and a battle very few predicted. Many experts from around the league predicted a second round featuring Connor McDavid versus Austin Matthews, but here we are.

The Jets and Canadiens met nine times during the regular season, with the Jets winning on six of those occasions, and three of those victories came in overtime.

In any event, after witnessing the Jets sweep Edmonton last week, we can confirm that regular season stats are meaningless come playoff time.

Here are three keys to success for the Jets.

First, they will have home-ice advantage tonight and on Friday, on account of having finished the regular season four points higher than Montreal. Aside from having last line change, home-ice advantage has been virtually meaningless all season, since there haven’t been any fans in the building.

That is about to change. In a joint announcement on Tuesday, the province of Manitoba and the Jets revealed that up to 500 fully vaccinated healthcare workers will be able to attend games one and two.

This has the potential to create an atmosphere imbalance when compared to the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal will continue to allow at least 2,500 fans to attend their home games. With tickets costing thousands of dollars each in Montreal, those fans must be classified as super fans and the atmosphere will be vibrant.

This imbalance increases the importance of the Winnipeg Jets’ home-ice advantage in games one, two, five, and seven.

Next, the Jets need to find their legs quickly. Winnipeg has had ten days of rest since sweeping the Edmonton Oilers on May 23. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens are rolling after winning three straight games to come back and close out the first round.

Winnipeg doesn’t have a good record when playing rested. They’ve won only two of six games when playing with at least three days between games and scored an average of 2.8 goals per game, below their regular season average of 3.0 goals per game.

“There would be advantages or disadvantages in either situation,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “If you got rest, then you’re rested and you’ve got lots of energy to push through a seven-game series. If that’s what comes up between Winnipeg and Montreal, we should have good legs for that. And if you’ve come off a seven-game series and you’ve won, you’ve dialled right into your game.”

However, he continued: “The immediate advantage would have to go to Montreal. They’re on their A-game right now, so they get to stay in that rhythm. They’ll be really good out of the gate and we’re going to have to make sure that we’re as simple as we possibly can be. We haven’t played in a while, so we have to get back into playoff hockey as quick as we possibly can.”

And finally, Dubois needs to be the X factor. The 22-year-old has underperformed since being acquired, scoring only eight goals and 20 points in 41 games. He was a force last year during the playoffs, scoring four goals and six assists in ten playoff games.

Dubois is known to bring solid offence, a strong defensive game, and many intangibles to the team. And the Jets will need to start seeing tangible results right out of the gate.

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