What the Puck?
This year, the Winnipeg Jets are trying to give the city something that it hasn’t seen in 17 years – which is long enough to declare it legally dead – the playoffs.
Since the team’s departure from The Peg back in 1996, the city has subsequently been deprived of quality playoff hockey. And, while hockey fans may have been kept alive by the city’s former resident AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, the excitement of NHL playoffs has been MIA for far too long.
After missing the playoffs by eight points in their return to Winnipeg last season, the Jets are hoping to rekindle their relationship with the playoffs in their sophomore season after taking an extended break. As of press time, it looks like the no-strings-attached break may have been a good thing for this struggling relationship – that never happens.
With their marathon shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 16, which took 10 rounds to claim a winner, the Jets not only showcased their stamina, but also moved one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes to secure sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division and an automatic third place seat in the Eastern Conference.
While this sounds impressive, fans must keep in mind that besides Carolina and Winnipeg, the other members of the Southeast Division are bringing up the rear in the conference. In fact, the only real threat they pose is to secure the first overall pick this year’s entry draft. I mean, Florida? Really? Does dead last in the entire league ring a bell?
Of course, with 20 games left to play, and plenty of points up for grabs in a tight playoff race, the Jets are by no means a shoe-in to make to the post-season, but they have put themselves in a good position to secure a playoff berth.
Team captain Andrew Ladd has been a force for the team once again this year, and while he may not be on top of the league in any stats categories, he leads the Jets in both goals and assists with 14 a piece in 29 games.
Add to that the offensive power of Evander Kane and the ever-present fear of getting in Dustin Byfuglien’s way, God forbid, and the Jets are ready to take flight – excuse the obvious corniness of that line.
If by some miracle true love does exist, and the Jets can not only find their passion for the playoffs once again, but also find a way to make it past the first round – it’s been a long time for them, okay – Winnipeg fans will get a look at the division semi-finals for the first time in two decades.
Can you imagine the shock on their faces seeing each other for the first time in 20 years? To put that into perspective, the last time this happened, the division was still carrying the name Smythe, and was within the Clarence Campbell Conference. Who are they you may ask? Exactly.
Jets and playoffs: Reuniting, and it feels so good.
Photo courtesy of globalwinnipeg.com