To call Winnipeg’s first playoff series since 1996 a disappointment is an understatement. The MTS Centre was going to be a nightmare for the Ducks to play in, and a lot of the amateur statisticians even took the Jets to win the series because of how well they matched up with Anaheim from a numbers perspective. One can understand the heartache that Jets fans felt on Wednesday night, then, when they watched their team get swept in the first round to the hands of the Western Conference’s best team. Despite the bitter taste that Winnipeg’s brief playoff appearance left in the mouth of the city, their efforts emphasized some facets to the team that should give fans reason to look to the future with hope.
Well-roundedness – Some teams in this league thrive off crafty playmakers and finishers with finesse. Others prefer a black-and-blue bruiser style. The Winnipeg Jets have a good mix of both. Want some speed that can create scoring chances? Guys like Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault (take good care of him, guys) have you covered. Need to send a message to someone on the other team via some muscle? Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler can do that for you too. Just a couple of examples, but hopefully one that gets the point across that this team isn’t a one-trick pony.
Goaltending – Honestly, I’ve never been impressed by Ondrej Pavelec. He’s never struck me as a goalie that’s of NHL-starter caliber, so whenever I’d hear about how he came into the playoffs hot, I never gave it a second thought because I figured that there was no way his play was sustainable given his history. He may have shut me up after this series. Even though he didn’t pick up a win, Pavelec was one of the main reasons the Jets were still in the game night after night. He did a great job standing up to the Anaheim offense, and I think Winnipeg is in good hands with him moving forward. If he’s ever unavailable, young buck Michael Hutchinson has definitely shown that he can hang at the NHL level, and when he’s ready, I think Connor Hellebuyck has the potential to mature into a pretty strong tendy as well. The Jets have a better goaltending situation than they get credited for. Let them fly under the radar all they want.
Winnipeg Fans – Simply put, Jet supporters are something else. The MTS Centre was the subject of one of the biggest storylines coming into the series, only because of the intense excitement that the city of Winnipeg brought to the table for the playoffs. They easily met expectations, and arguably even exceeded them in Game 4. SportsNet gave them the 3rd star of the game on Wednesday night, a tip of the hat that was corny as all hell, but at the same time, was a pretty accurate tribute to their presence. After Winnipeg’s second goal of the night, the roof blew off the arena, and it really felt like they were going to push their team on to tie the game. The salute they sent their team off the ice with was also fantastic, even though it wasn’t coupled with the desired result. Keep doing what you’re doing, Jet fans. Amazing atmosphere you guys give your team. Also, I can understand why you’d be bitter towards the Ducks now, but after the initial sting of the loss subsides, let’s just all be friends by the common love we have for our boy Teemu.
See you next season, Winnipeg!