The answer to that question remains a bit of a mystery, as does the Winnipeg Jets’ second-round opponent, who will require Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens to determine.
Now that the gas tanks have been refueled after a four-game Edmonton Oilers sweep that included three straight overtime games – including a triple-OT thriller ended by Kyle Connor in the clincher – the Jets admit to being a little restless. to get back into the action of the game.
But the advantages of extra leave always outweigh any possible disadvantages of a semblance of rust seeping in.
“You want to make sure you don’t let any bad habits creep into your game throughout practice. And then you kinda wait, ”Jets center Adam Lowry said. “We will go wherever we are told. It’s one of those things where sometimes you get a little anxious to start. We all want to keep playing. You try to stay sharp as best you can, try to stay as rested as possible, so that when the series starts we’re good to go.
The start date for the series actually became clear on Saturday night, with the Canadiens forcing another playoff game after surviving a Maple Leafs third-period rally to win overtime – as they did in Game 5.
Round 2 of the North Division kicks off Monday in Toronto if the Maple Leafs win and in Winnipeg if the Canadiens win for a third straight game.
The Jets will remain out of the ice on Sunday after three consecutive days of training.
Although they had to wait more than a full week between games, the Jets will have no trouble preparing for the next opponent.
“Calm but ready,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “There is a timing for that and a peak for that. So it’s really important that we mind our own business and cover our bases. Number one: you probably need to stock up, rest, get ready, get in shape. This anticipation is coming. I think you can already feel it. Right now it’s just details and tactics and trying to keep the legs straight.
“And I think there is confidence that we will be able to reach that emotional level. The longer your break, the more anticipation there is. We’re about to need a game here soon.
There are some obvious benefits for the Jets when it comes to extended hiatus, and at the top of that list is the opportunity to regain full health.
Whether it’s the regular bumps and bruises that come this time of year, or an extra week and switch to fast winger Nikolaj Ehlers to build up his strength and conditioning after missing the first two games of the series. first round with a suspected shoulder injury, the Jets will take it.
Ehlers had an immediate impact on his return to the Jets’ lineup, scoring twice, including the overtime winner in Game 3.
Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was ruled out of the series opener due to an undisclosed injury he sustained in the regular season finale, but returned for Game 2 and finished with two assists in three games, both points being obtained on the power play.
Dubois also played a big role in the Game 3 overtime winner who didn’t make it on the scoresheet, subtly preventing Oilers winger Josh Archibald from the draw and preventing him from being able to put his stick. in the shooting lane before Ehlers unloads his perfect shot.
The biggest boost for Dubois between the playoffs was the opportunity to participate in regular training after a tumultuous season that included a contract dispute, satisfied commercial demand, a 14-day quarantine, two injuries and a varied pack of line mates as he rebounded. between the center of play and the two wings.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs and it hasn’t been the easiest year,” said Dubois. “I haven’t been injured in my life and this year there are two. You can learn anything. I always know my game isn’t necessarily where I know it can be and where it should be.
“I’m someone who puts a lot of pressure on myself and has a lot of expectations, but you keep working in training. Now is the time to get your game where you want it and when the second round starts it’s a new game and that’s what I’m trying to work on right now.
The Jets also employ the busiest goaltender this season at Connor Hellebuyck.
After dominating the NHL in starts (45) and saves (1,223), Hellebuyck was at his best in the first round, posting a perfect record while posting a 1.60 goals against average and percentage of stops of 0.950.
As much as Hellebuyck enjoys the pace of a regular schedule, the extra time between actions will keep him cooler – which could be especially helpful as the Jets face back-to-back second-round games (Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday, with Game 4 the following Monday).
Hellebuyck used Saturday to work individually with Jets goaltender coach Wade Flaherty and he will be up for the challenge of facing either Jack Campbell or Carey Price.
No matter which team progresses, the Jets know they are going to take a tough test against a club that has a lot of depth.
“You look at Montreal and they seem to be doing it by committee,” Lowry said. “They don’t necessarily have a superstar up front or anything like that. They have a bunch of really good players. They’re small, they’re quick, they’re tenacious, they’re on the puck and they sort of do that by doing hard forward chess and throwing pucks at the net and creating scrums. They have a bit bigger rear.
“And then you look at Toronto and obviously Auston (Matthews) and Mitch (Marner). But they do have a bit more depth, depending on what’s going on with (John) Tavares and how he heals. Obviously you look at how (William) Nylander played in the first round and you kind of go down their list of attackers and they have some depth, they have points. They receive contributions from all the different lines. The two teams present different challenges. They attack slightly differently. They create their offense a little differently. But we focus on how we play and how our style of play is going to prevent those odds against, whether against Toronto or Montreal.
When you watch how the Jets got rid of the Oilers, there’s a quiet confidence around this group as they find themselves in the second round for the first time since 2018.
“At first there weren’t a lot of believers on our team, but even during our struggles I don’t think the belief in our locker room ever really wavered,” Lowry said. “We’ve been through this year and for the most part we’ve been really good at bouncing back from the losses, coming back and generally winning the next game. And you kind of go on this slide towards the end of the year and everyone is trying to figure out, “What’s wrong with the Winnipeg Jets? Why are things not going well for them?
“But in our locker room, we really believe in the group we have here. We have a world class goalie who gives us a chance to win every night. I don’t know if you take teams by surprise. Everyone is sort of ready to play. I think Edmonton may have been a little surprised at our commitment to defense and how tightly we were able to control some of them early in the series. But as you go, each team is able to win every night. You are going to get the best of each team every night and the best team will come out on top. “
Whether the Jets remain an underdog against the Maple Leafs or a slight favorite against the Canadiens, their approach isn’t going to change at all.
The Jets know the style of play they’ll need to rely on once the next round begins.
Commitment to team defense, focusing on puck management and limiting turnovers, being disciplined and creating offense the right way remains a priority.
“As a guy like me getting older, you never know when another chance will present itself, so I’m very happy that we have the chance to play in the second round,” said Jets left winger Mathieu Perreault. “Now it’s going to be down to eight teams and you can really cherish that and bring all you have to this second round so you can keep moving forward. “