The Jets Are Going Back To The Playoffs And We're All Better For It
Remember that time the Anaheim Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 2015 NHL playoffs? You’re not alone.
Since that heartbreaking night nearly three years ago, the entire city has been waiting for another chance to carry our team to its first Stanley Cup. Now, thanks to a record-setting season and a thrilling 5-4 shootout win over the rival Nashville Predators, that chance has finally come.
That’s right. We’re going back to the playoffs.
And whether you’re a die-hard Jets fan, a casual game watcher, an unapologetic bandwagon jumper, or entirely indifferent to all things sport, playoffs are good news for the city – and the people – of Winnipeg.
For one, it brings out the best in us. What better way to build community than pack the local pubs, orchestrate chants, embrace a city-wide whiteout, and band together for a common goal (or hopefully many)?
For another, the NHL post season happens to coincide pretty perfectly with the changing of seasons. With hibernation behind us and the promise of summer in the air, playoffs is a time to get out and celebrate our city. Bars, patios and restaurants fill up. People host house parties. Local businesses thrive. The atmosphere is electric, the support is contagious and Winnipeg becomes one.
The epic Winnipeg Whiteout Street Party planned for every home game will only add to that electricity and sense of community.
Then there’s the collective waiting (the late great Tom Petty was SO right when he said it’s the hardest part).
Since the team moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, that 2015 series against the Ducks was the Jets’ only post-season appearance, and they’ve yet to win a single playoff game. In fact, they’ve only played at home twice in the seven years since relocating. That’s a LOT of pent-up passion just waiting to be released.
Plus, as Canada’s only hope in the Western Conference this year, we have an entire country (Leafs fans don’t count, obviously) cheering us on. The longer our run, the bigger our bandwagon gets. And the better it is for our city.
So how far can we expect the 2017-18 Jets to go?
Let us start by saying this WILL be the year that Jets 2.0 win their first playoff game. With home ice advantage all but locked up, odds are decent that we’ll even win a round. But more and more, it’s looking like the road to glory will go through Nashville.
As the top team in the West, the pesky Predators have remained just out of reach for much of the regular season and are poised to build on the experience from their run to the Stanley Cup finals in last year’s playoffs. While a potential series between the Jets and Preds would be as close to a second-round coin toss as you’ll find, we know two things for sure: it would be a helluva match-up, and heart attacks in Winnipeg would be at an all-time high.
That said, we like our chances.
For starters, we’re in a drastically different position than we were three years ago. With only three fewer points than Nashville, we finished second in not only the Western Conference, but the entire NHL. In 2015, we essentially limped into the second wild-card position at the last possible moment.
2015: Winnipeg clinches a playoff berth on April 9 by losing to Colorado in a shootout and watching Calgary beat L.A.
2018: Winnipeg clinches a playoff berth on March 25 by defeating Nashville in a shootout.
— Bartley Kives (@bkives) March 26, 2018
We also set franchise records for both wins (52) and points (104) in a single season.
Then there’s our roster. Since the last time around, names like Pavelec, Frolik, Stafford, Ladd, Thorburn and Stuart have been replaced by the likes of Hellebuyck, Stastny, Connor, Ehlers, Laine and Morrissey.
Mix that in with a more experienced core of Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, and captain Blake Wheeler (who happens to be having a career year), and depth players like Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry and Joel Armia, and you have a recipe for a long and successful playoff run.
We, for one, will be with them every stride of the way. Go Jets Go!