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Handshake Line: Jets Flew White Out The Door

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Winnipeg's playoff run was cut short, however they put up one helluva fight.

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I'll do my best to keep this short. Oh wait, the Ducks already took care of that part didn't they?

Okay but let's be honest here, the Jets fought hard. They clearly wanted it, their fans were ready, but somehow the comeback kids just kept, well, coming back. Anaheim set a new NHL record with three consecutive playoffs wins by a team that trailed when entering the third period of action. Now is this a practice that spells for a deep run in the post season? Not exactly, but it worked out in round one with Anaheim completing the perfect four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets.

So now, we do the digitized blogger equivalent to the handshake line, one of the best traditions in all of sports, that concluding practice where two teams who have done anything and everything possible to emerge the victors in this almost-borderline barbaric sport demonstrate pure sportsmanship, and shake hands like gentlemen. So, too, do I tip my allegedly metaphorical hat to aspects I respect from the Winnipeg Jets.

I tip my hat to the fans: This shouldn't come as much of a surprise but perhaps the reason why is simpler than many expect. Personally, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the unparalleled dedication the Jets fans have to their team. When other franchises attempt a "white out" there are usually free white t-shirts sitting on the seats for the fans, however that is not the practice in Winnipeg. For the Jets' fans, the white out tradition rests solely in the hands of the fans who arrive in that pristine Clorox bleached concoction of clothing. Add in the commitment to (admittedly controversial) chants, the fans were a definite factor when the Ducks were playing in the MTS Center. It clearly took a little time to tune out the deafeningly loud chants and yells of Winnipeg's fanbase.

I tip my hat to Ondrej Pavelec: The 6'2" Winnipeg goaltender did everything he could to help give his team a shot at winning, including some downright robbery-style saves. Unfortunately for Pavelec, he held the Ducks to just two goals on one occasion, which coincided with Frederik Andersen only allowing one goal against. Pavelev's statistics aren't in his favor, with a middle-of-the-road .891 save percentage, however his performance in the games was largely the reason that Anaheim only won by a one-goal margin in half the games played. All in all, he was much better in the crease than the numbers give him credit for, and for that I tip my hat.

I tip my hat to my new most-hated player: Dustin Byfuglien did a phenomenal job filling the role of villain. I can safely say I do not like playing him even more than I like typing that confusingly-spelled last name of his. I am still curious why the NHL never acknowledged the incident involving a delayed grabbing of Corey Perry's head which concluded with his face meeting the ice, however I have to hand it to big Buff, he played his role and really managed to get under the skin of both the Ducks players and the fans. I can't stand him, but even just for that reason, I tip my hat to him.

I tip my hat to their second period efforts: When facing a team that is notorious for failing in the middle period, you have to take advantage of that as much as possible, and considering Winnipeg scored five of it's eight total goals in the second period they did what they could to make Anaheim's uphill battle just a little steeper. When you consider that both teams scored three goals each in collective first periods, and Winnipeg's five goal seconds trumps the three goal seconds for the Ducks, it only comes down to Anaheim's strength in the third periods. However the fact that Winnipeg led going into the third period on three separate occasions against the top team in the Western Conference speaks volumes regarding their strength, power, and determination.

Finally, I tip my hat to the entire Winnipeg Jets organization: The Jets made this opening series a much tougher battle than it appears on paper, and to be frank I am still shocked that it ended in a sweep. But it did, and the Winnipeg Jets organization is now focusing on what they learned and what the future holds for their team and their fans. The Winnipeg website spotlights things like how the GM is proud of the team and asks their fans what off-season event they are most eager for. All in all, the franchise isn't shattered, the fans aren't jumping ship and as a whole the organization sees this as a growing opportunity and a stepping stone which is truly an incredible mentality to project.

Cheers to the Jets!