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.
Although Winnipeg and Vegas were both in the conference finals they took very different paths to get there.
Vegas has been in the habit of proving people wrong all season and they continued that in the playoffs. Most people expected their dream season to end once a seven game series took its toll on the players. This wasn’t the case in round one as Vegas easily moved to the second round after a 4-0 sweep of the Los Angeles Kings.
Everyone bet against Vegas in round two as well because conventional wisdom said they eventually had to lose. That wasn’t the case again as they beat the San Jose Sharks in six games. Although Vegas had only played two less games than the Jets, they were plenty more rested as they had some time off while watching the Jets finish off Nashville in seven games.
The style of this series was quite different than last round because Vegas and Nashville have very different strengths. Nashville is a team that dominates with their offensive zone play while Vegas scores almost exclusively off the rush.
They both activate their defenders but Nashville gets them involved in the offensive zone by shooting a lot of shots. Vegas gets their defence activated by using them to initiate the breakouts and by joining the rush when there’s an opening. These contrasting styles were interesting to watch because they created different types of games each round.
The Jets didn’t have home ice advantage in round two, but they regained it in round three. They used this to their advantage by having a huge first period in game one. Dustin Byfuglien scored the series opening goal with a huge slapshot just inside the blue line. This was followed by a Patrik Laine power play goal and a weird bounce off Joel Armia that ended in the back of the net. The goal from Armia was initially waved off before being reviewed and overturned.
Although Vegas scored a quick goal in response to the controversial goal from Armia, they were trailing 3-1 after the first period. The teams traded goals in the second period and the Jets closed out game one with a 4-2 victory at home.
Game two was the beginning of a few bad trends for the Winnipeg Jets. This first trend was getting scored on early in the game. The Jets gave up two goals in the first period and found themselves chasing the game from the start. The early leads played perfectly into Vegas’ style because as soon as a defender would pinch or join the rush to try and create a chance, Vegas would counter attack with deadly precision.
The second bad trend that emerged was getting scored on shortly after scoring a goal. The Jets scored midway through the third period to cut the lead to one, but Vegas completely deflated the comeback by scoring their own goal 88 seconds later. This quick response completely derailed the comeback for the Jets and Vegas won the second game to even the series.
The trends that were started in game two were on full display in game three as well. Vegas scored 35 seconds into the game as Scheifele turned the puck over at the blue line and Marchesseault outraced Trouba to the puck.
The Jets finally broke through the tough Vegas defence and tied the game early in the second period. It took a lot of effort from Winnipeg to get that first goal and they were hoping to build on the momentum. Rather than Winnipeg gaining any traction from this goal, it was Vegas who took the momentum back.
The trend of allowing goals shortly after scoring reared its ugly head as Neal scored 12 seconds after Scheifele to put Vegas back on top.
The goal was created from a Hellebuyck turnover behind the net when he attempted to shoot the puck around the boards. Haula was able to knock it down and pass it in front where Neal was waiting to tap it into the yawning cage. This goal totally disheartened the Jets because they had to work so hard to tie the game while Vegas scored one back with ease.
The Jets couldn’t recover after this bad play and they allowed Tuch to score under three minutes later which put the Golden Knights ahead by two goals. Although Scheifele scored early in the third, Fleury was phenomenal for the rest of the period as he robbed the Jets time after time. Vegas would finish the game off and move ahead 2-1 in the series.
There were no surprises in game four as everything played out identical to games two and three. Vegas scored 2:25 into the game to give themselves an early lead. Laine tied the game in the second period only to have Vegas score on the next shift, 43 seconds later.
Myers tied the game again in the third period but Vegas scored the game winner seven minutes later from another Jets turnover. All the trends continued as the Jets were now facing elimination going into game five.
At this point It should be no surprise how game five turned out. Vegas got the early start by scoring five minutes into the game off a terrible turnover by Morrissey in his own end. Morrissey redeemed himself later in the period by scoring a rocket off an offensive zone draw.
The Jets were finally able to survive the shift after a goal without getting scored on, but things took a turn for the worse in the second period. Hometown boy Ryan Reaves tipped a point shot past Hellebuyck to give Vegas the lead. This turned out to be the series winning goal as Vegas played great defensively the rest of the game. Fleury was incredible again during game five and easily was the best player in the entire series.
This loss at home eliminated the Jets after their longest playoff run in franchise history. It also sent the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup final as their incredible run continues.
Mark Scheifele – No surprise that Scheifele is once again the top performer. He had 3 goals in the series and also finished the playoffs with the most road goals in NHL history.
Patrik Laine – Laine finally started to gain some traction in this series and scored two power play goals.
Dustin Byfuglien – Byfuglien scored the first goal of the series and ended with 1 goal and 2 assists. He also ended with 19 shots which lead the team.