The Winnipeg Jets just wrapped up their most successful season in franchise history. They set a new franchise record for points during the regular season finishing with a record of 52-20-10 which put them second in the league. That same success carried over into the playoffs as they won the franchise’s first postseason game. They didn’t stop at one game as they moved past the first two rounds and made it all the way to the conference finals. Even though they lost to the Golden Knights with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, this playoff run should be celebrated. The point of this series is to look back at the 2018 playoffs because this historic season deserves to be remembered.
The Jets began their playoff run as a heavy favourite over the Minnesota Wild. The Jets were coming off a terrific end to the regular season after winning 9 games in a row at home and 12 of their last 13 overall. This was a new adventure for the club as they came into the postseason with very little playoff experience. Roughly half the team was still intact from their early exit a few seasons ago but the franchise had still never won a playoff game. The regular season stats showed that the Jets were capable of winning but they were playing against a perennial playoff team that had a lot more experience.
While the Jets were looking to get their first ever playoff victory, Minnesota was looking to finally break through the first round. After finishing second in the central division in 2016-2017 and trading their future away for Martin Hanzal, they were ready to make a run for the cup. That never materialized as they were ousted in the first round against the Blues. The 2017-2018 version of the Wild wanted to make it past the first round to prove their doubters wrong after losing two straight seasons in round one.
The atmosphere in Winnipeg could not be overstated on April 11th as fans descended on Bell MTS Place in their craziest white attire. While fans were packing both the seats and the streets, the rest of the province were glued to their couches, ready for the fun to begin.
Game one started slowly as both teams were finding their legs. The Jets didn’t want to get scored on early so they played a conservative style while waiting for the right time to pounce. That time came in the second period as Scheifele scored the first of the playoffs on the power play. The adversity followed shortly after that as Minnesota picked up two quick goals in the third period to grab their first lead of the game. That lead didn’t last long as Laine scored under a minute later to tie the game and Joe Morrow scored the game winner with seven minutes left.
The Jets dominated during game two and won a decisive 4-1 game that really put the Wild on their heels. The Jets were controlling the shots and possession and it was showing on the scoreboard as they were up two games in the series with all the momentum.
Things changed when the series moved to Minnesota as the Wild had a very good record at home this year. They showed why in game three by beating the Jets 6-2. The game started fairly even but the Wild were up 2-1 after the first period with both goals being scored on the power play. The second period is where Minnesota opened things up as they scored four goals in the period including two within 20 seconds to lead themselves to victory.
At this point the series was close as the Jets were up 2-1 and Minnesota was playing game four at home. The Wild were feeling good after winning game three and wanted to take advantage of home ice and tie the series at two apiece. The Jets on the other hand still had home ice advantage even if they lost the game and were coming off a poor performance from Hellebuyck where he got pulled in exchange for Steve Mason. The turning point came as the Jets were already down a man and were attempting to kill the first penalty of the game. On the ensuing faceoff, the puck was shot towards the net by the Wild and Morrissey turned to box out Eric Staal. Morrissey didn’t see where his hands were going and he cross-checked/high-sticked Staal square in the face.
There was no penalty on the play as Morrissey scampered to the bench after the whistle to get a quick change before the replay was shown. Had Morrissey been given a penalty, the Wild would have had a two man advantage while the game was still up for grabs. Instead, the Jets killed the 5 on 4 and proceeded to score a goal late in the period which ended up being the game winner. Even though Morrissey was suspended for game five, the damage was already done as the Wild were on the brink of elimination and had to win on the road to keep their season alive. This non-call could have changed the outcome of the game and the series even though the Wild wouldn’t have necessarily scored on the 5 on 3. Regardless, the non penalty and subsequent suspension was the focal point of the series and the turning point for the Jets.
The Winnipeg Jets took care of business during game five as they got off to a blazing start by scoring four goals in the first period. Scheifele once again added the insurance marker as he scored another goal to make it 5-0 in favour of Winnipeg. Hellebuyck posted his second straight shutout and the Jets were off to the second round for the first time in franchise history.
Mark Scheifele – Scheifele finished the series with 4 goals and 1 assist in five games. Oddly enough he scored the first and last goals of the entire series.
Connor Hellebuyck – Hellebuyck finished the series with a SV% of .924 and had two straight shutouts to end the series.
Dustin Byfuglien – Byfuglien had 5 assists in the series and played just over 25 minutes per game. He also had a few monstrous hits to get the fans on their feet during the first two games.