Jets Clean Out Their Lockers And Head Home. Now What?

The Winnipeg Jets cleaned out their lockers on Friday and some of them might have said “Good-bye,” for the final time.

After losing Game 4 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Western Conference quarter-final to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, the Jets were swept out of the playoffs.

Kevin Cheveldayoff, Jets GM (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Kevin Cheveldayoff, Jets GM (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

As GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said yesterday, “You have to earn your spot in the playoffs. It isn’t given to you,” ad the Jets certainly earned it this season with a 99-point campaign. However, that’s cold comfort for the players and their passionate fans today. As the Jets cleaned out their lockers and prepared to head East to Czech Republic or West to Vancouver, they all praised the support they were given this season.

“Overall, (the playoff series with Anaheim) was extremely disappointing, but it was a great experience,” said Jets defenseman and team leader Mark Stuart. “Especially to come back here to Winnipeg and play those last two games and have the crowd the way it was, as a player it’s something you’ll never forget.”

For team captain Andrew Ladd, the atmosphere inside MTS Centre on Wednesday was something he’ll never forget. And that says a lot coming from a guy who has already won two Stanley Cups.

“Yeah, it was incredible,” Ladd said. “We take our hats off to those fans. They’ve been great the entire year but it was at a whole new level for these last two games. At they end, when they stood and gave us that ovation, I can tell you we appreciate that in here.

“We understand that they put their heart and soul into this hockey team and their hard-eared money into watching us play, but they should know that it’s definitely appreciated in here. It gets you going. That’s the special thing about our crowd and how involved they are.”

The Whiteout (Photo by Scott Taylor)

The Whiteout (Photo by Scott Taylor)

Head coach Paul Maurice believes Winnipeg is probably the only place in the NHL where the fans respond the way they do.

“You’re not going to get that in a regular season game, but we get it more than anybody else,” said Maurice. “I do believe, and I’ll say this as much just from people that I talk to on the street, people that will come up to you and talk about your hockey team — that they did appreciate the effort. We’re going to try and make things better next year, beyond our effort. But there was an appreciation there, the fans showed it in the playoffs.

“I’d like to have them cheering at the end of the game for a different reason, but we weren’t able to that. But that was special, the players appreciate it — they appreciated it in game one.  Just the number of unsolicited comments by the players today about how great that was. I certainly appreciated the end of the game, it wasn’t the result we wanted. It wasn’t the series that we wanted to give our fans, but I thought it was great.”

As we mentioned here at mytoba.ca this morning, now that the Winnipeg Jets’ 2014-15 season has come to an end, the Jets brass will turn its attention to the two big responsibilities of summer – the NHL draft (June 25-26 in Sunrise, Fla.) and the re-signing of free-agent players already on the roster.

Which Jets will be back next season? (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Which Jets will be back next season? (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The Jets have eight unrestricted free agents – forwards Drew Stafford, Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty, TJ Galiardi, Jim Slater, Lee Stempniak and Matt Halischuk and defenseman Adam Pardy. The team also had five restricted free agents – Eric O’Dell, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma, Keaton Ellerby and Ben Chiarot.

The Jets also have four unrestricted free agents coming up in the summer of 2016 – Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Grant Clitsome and Jay Harrison. There are aso two restricted free agents – Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. Will deals be made to get something in return for future free agents. These are all decisions the brass has to make between now and June 25.

Let’s start in goal. Do the Jets want to ride Ondrej Pavelec, 27, a good NHL goaltender, but not a great one, or open it up to the youngsters, Michael Hutchinson, 25, who carried the Jets for most of the season, and Connor Hellebuyck, 21, who just joined Team USA for the 2015 World Championships? Knowing how much Kevin Cheveldayoff likes Pavelec from their days with the Chicago Wolves, assume Pavy will be back.

On defense, the Jets have 11 defencemen on the roster, and seven of whom are under contract next season: Toby Enstrom, 30, Dustin Byfuglien, 30, Tyler Myers, 25, Mark Stuart, 30, Grant Clitsome, 30, Jacob Trouba 21, and Jay Harrison, 32.

Dustin Byfuglien (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Dustin Byfuglien (Photo by Jeff Miller)

That list doesn’t include restricted free agents Ben Chiarot, 23, Paul Postma 26, and Keaton Ellerby, 26, or 2013 first-rounder Josh Morrissey 20, who will very likely be with the team when it breaks camp next October.

Enstrom was not good during the playoffs. He was either rag-dolled in front of the net or taken off the puck in the corners. Byfuglien is a free agent on July 1, 2016 and Cheveldayoff might look at moving him for a younger player or two or even draft choices, before he moves on to free-agency.

Up front, the Jets big line is back – Bryan Little, 27, Blake Wheeler, 28, and Andrew Ladd, 29. Michael Frolik said on Friday that he liked Winnipeg, but will look seriously at free agency this summer. “It’s the only real chance you get,” said the 27-year-old Frolik.

Stafford, who will be 30, is a free agent and while the Jets would love to have him back, they won’t over-pay. Tlusty, 27, Galiardi, 27, Slater, 33, Peluso, 26, O’Dell, 25, Stempniak 32, and Halischuk, 27,are probably gone, although, Cheveldayoff might try to keep Stempniak if he can. It’s also very likely that the youngsters in the organization — Nik Ehlers, 19, Nic Petan, 20, Chase De Leo, 19, Jan Kostalek, 20, Joel Armia, 22, Brendan Lemieux, 19, and Andrew Copp, 20 — will all get serious opportunities in training camp.

Mark Scheifele (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Mark Scheifele (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Mark Scheifele, 22, Adam Lowry, 22, and Mathieu Perreault, 27, should be fixtures in Winnipeg for years to come. Fact is, the Jets have a very bright future.

“I like our core group, I really do,” said Cheveldayoff yesterday. “But things will come up this summer that change our look in a number of different ways. We have eight free agents and some will stay with us and some won’t. We also might run into an opportunity or two to make trades. Those opportunities will present themselves and we’ll have to decide what we want to do. But I’m looking forward to our off-season and looking forward to having our core group back next season.”



Jets Brass Turns Its Attention to the Draft and its Own Free Agents

Now that the Winnipeg Jets 2014-15 season has come to an end, the Jets brass will turn its attention to the two big responsibilities of summer – the NHL draft (June 25-26 in Sunrise, Fla.) and the re-signing of free-agent players already on the roster.

The Jets salute their fans (Photo by Jeff Miller).

The Jets salute their fans (Photo by Jeff Miller).

The Jets have seven unrestricted free agents – forwards Drew Stafford, Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty, Jim Slater, TJ Galiardi, Lee Stempniak and Matt Halischuk and defenseman Adam Pardy. The team also had five restricted free agents – Eric O’Dell, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma, Keaton Ellerby and Ben Chiarot.

The Jets also have four unrestricted free agents coming up in the summer of 2016 – Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Grant Clitsome and Jay Harrison. There are aso two restricted free agents – Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. Will deals be made to get something in return for future free agents. These are all decisions the brass has to make between now and June 25.

Who do you sign? Who do you let go? I doubt much attention will be paid to Halischuk, Galiardi, Tlusty or Slater. O’Dell, Ellerby and Peluso are likely gone. I’m sure the Jets want to keep Stafford, Frolik, Pardy and Chiarot. Postma is a toss-up but for the right price he should remain. Same goes for Stempniak.

What is more intriguing is the 2016 group? Do you move Ladd and Byfuglien while you can still get something in return? That will be an extremely interesting discussion going forward. The Jets will certainly re-sign Scheifele and Trouba to their second NHL deals.

Meanwhile, there are still plenty of Manitoba teams and stars involved in post-season hockey at all kinds of levels. Here’s an update:

Manitobans in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators.

Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators.

In the Playoffs on Thursday night: Winnipeg’s Colin Wilson scored his fifth goal of the playoffs and it turned out to be the winner as the Nashville Predators went on to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. In 16 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time Wilson was plus one with one shot on goal and two blocked shots. Winnipeg’s Jonathan Toews logged 18 minutes and 42 seconds of ice time for Chicago and had two shots and four hits.

Manitobans and Jets Prospects in the AHL

The AHL playoffs began on Wednesday night. Oakbank’s Quinton Howden had an assist, was plus one and had three shots on goal but Howden’s San Antonio Rampage were whipped 5-2 by the Oklahoma City Barons.

Brandon Wheat Kings

The Scotty Munro Trophy-winning Brandon Wheat Kings will meet the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL’s Eastern Conference final. The final opens Friday night at 7:30 in Brandon. Game 2 goes Saturday night in Brandon.

Manitobans and Jets Prospects in the WHL

The WHL conference finals open Friday night.

Manitoba Junior Hockey League

Tanner Jago and goalie Justin Laforest bar the door for Portage (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Defenseman Tanner Jago (12) and goalie Justin Laforest bar the door for Portage (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

The Portage Terriers are the 2015 MJHL Champions. On Tuesday night, they raised the Turnbull Trophy, emblematic of MJHL supremacy as they went 12-0 in the playoffs.

The Terriers will now represent the MJHL at the Western Canada Cup from April 25-May 3 in Fort McMurray, Alta. The Terriers open the tournament against the Host team on Saturday, April 25 at 8:30 p.m. CDT. They’ll face Saskatchewan on Sunday, April 26 at 3:30 p.m. CDT and then meet B.C. on Tuesday, April 28 at 3:30 p.m. CDT. The Terriers will complete the round-robin portion of the tournament on Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m. against Alberta. The semifinals will be held on Saturday, May 2.

We’ll continue with this update as the post-season unfolds.



Ducks Sweep Jets, Franchise Has Yet to Win a Playoff Game

In the end, the Winnipeg Jets simply weren’t good enough. And because of that, the Atlanta/Winnipeg NHL franchise still hasn’t won a Stanley Cup playoff game.

On Wednesday night at MTS Centre, Ryan Kesler scored two insurance goals in the third period and that’s all the Anaheim Ducks needed as they beat the Jets 5-2 to sweep the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series.

Andrew Cogliano makes it 2-1 Ducks (Photo by jeff Miller)

Andrew Cogliano makes it 2-1 Ducks (Photo by jeff Miller)

“There will be time to talk about the good things from this season, but it’s not time yet,” said a very disappointed Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s not foremost in your mind right now.

“(The difference in the series) was quickness on the puck. You can deal with speed and we dealt with their speed, but they (the Ducks) were better at it. They were just more consistent on the puck.”

It was the first time in the series that a team leading after two periods won a game. That’s probably because the Jets were not the team leading after two periods this time.

As another capacity crowd cheered its collective lungs out, it was obvious by the midway point of the third period that the Jets had very little left in the tank. After Kesler scored at 6:41 of the third to make it 3-1, the Ducks started trapping in the neutral zone and just kept pounding the puck back into the Winnipeg zone.

Frederik Andersen was just too good (Photo by jeff Miller)

Frederik Andersen was just too good (Photo by jeff Miller)

To be fair, the Jets had a couple of chances in the first half of the third period, but Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen was just too good.

Then, Drew Stafford tipped in a point shot from Dustin Byfuglien at 10:27 to make it 3-2 and suddenly it was Game On! During a TV stoppage with eight minutes to play, the capacity crowd at the MTS Centre kept up the Go! Jets! Go! chant for four solid minutes.

“You aren’t going to get that crowd during a regular season game, but we get it more than anyone else,” said Maurice. “You talk to people on the street and they did appreciate the (Jets) effort. There was an appreciation there and the fans let us know it. It was special. The players appreciated it. I certainly appreciated it at the end of the game. I thought it was great. It was great.”

It was great, but it wasn’t enough. With five minutes to go, the Jets missed a glorious opportunity and the Ducks came back on a two-on-one. Jacob Silfverberg fed a perfect pass to Kesler and he made no mistake. Kesler, a player once loved by Manitoba Moose fans, was now a hated man in a Ducks uniform.

Oh yes, and with Kesler’s second goal, suddenly, MTS Centre was quiet again.

This series was intense (Photo by Jeff Miller)

This series was intense (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Sami Vatanen scored an empty net goal in the final minute to make it 5-2 as the Ducks outshot the Jets 35-27 and outchanced them 13-7. At the final buzzer, the crowd rose to its feet and cheered the home team relentlessly. Obviously, Winnipeg likes the Stanley Cup playoffs and would very much like to get accustomed to hockey in late April

All in all, however, the Ducks owned this one.

In the first period, both teams came out with plenty of jump and it was pretty much a saw-off for the first 16 minutes. Both teams had solid forechecks and they were pretty much even in terms of territorial control.

Then at 16:07, the Ducks Andrew Cogliano took a tripping penalty and at 16:26 the Jets converted. Mathieu Perreault laid a perfect pass onto the stick of Bryan Little in the slot. Little took the puck, made two quick moves to get the biscuit on his forehand and then drilled a shot under the bar, over the glove of Frederik Andersen. It was a goal-scorers’ goal and it gave the Jets a 1-0 lead.

The crowd loved it, but the lead would be short-lived.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Nice jersey selection (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Nice jersey selection (Photo by Jeff Miller)

A minute and a half later, the Ducks’ Emerson Etem took a breakout pass from Sami Vatanen inside his own blueline and skated through two zones, deked Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba out of his shorts and flipped a backhand over the outstretched glove of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. It was a highlight-reel tally and it was typical of the entire series: Just when the Jets got the upper hand, the Ducks came right back and scored.

Corey Perry drew an assist on the Etem goal. It was his sixth point of the series (three goals and three assists).

The second period was a wild one. The Jets came out with plenty of jump and through the first eight minutes of the period, outshot Anaheim 7-0. However, after the Jets did nothing on a power play midway through the period, Anaheim took over. At 12:55 Perry picked up his seventh point of the series by laying a perfect pass onto the stick of Andrew Cogliano who ripped a shot past Pavelec to give the Ducks a 2-1. Over the final 12 minutes of the period, and despite two Jets power-plays, the Ducks outshot Winnipeg 12-2.

And, for the fist time in the series, the Ducks took a lead (2-1) into the third period.

In the end, the Ducks scored nine third-period goals and one overtime goal in the series. The Jets played solid hockey for 50 minutes most nights, but overall, the Ducks dominated the third period and swept the series.

Captain Andrew Ladd  played hurt. (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Captain Andrew Ladd played hurt. (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Maurice let the media know that captain Andrew Ladd played injured for the final two months of the season. In fact, Maurice said that if Ladd had decided to get the injury handled surgically two months ago, nobody in the Jets room would have questioned it.

“We’re a whole hell of a lot better now than we were at this point last year,” said Maurice. “And we’ll be better next year. We’re not set. Next year we’ll come back and do this whole process over again.”

There is no “next game” at MTS Centre this season. Tomorrow, the Jets will begin clearing out their lockers. It’s been a great winter. The Goldeyes season is right around the corner.



Jets Lose Third Straight Heartbreaker

Monday night, the MTS Centre was the loudest place in Canada at 5:11 of overtime. At 5:12, you could hear a pin drop.

Rickard Rakell tipped home a shot from defenseman Francois Beauchemin — after Andrew Cogliano won three battles behind the Jets net with Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba — and the Anaheim Ducks had a 5-4 OT victory and grabbed a commanding 3-0 lead in this Western Conference quarter-final.

This says it all (Photo by Jeff Miller)

This says it all (Photo by Jeff Miller)

“This feels so good,” Rakell said after the game. “We were up and down and we kept coming back. I’m so proud of these guys. It was a great place to play. I think we kind of used the crowd to our advantage. It was really great. What a great atmosphere out there.”

Jets fans had waited 19 years, more than 6,000 days, to watch a playoff game and while they were obviously disappointed with the outcome, it didn’t appear that they were disappointed with the game itself. The Jets had so many chances to win, but just couldn’t convert when it mattered most. The Ducks, meanwhile, kept coming back from one-goal deficits, exactly the way they’ve played in every game of this series.

There were very few times when the din of the MTS Centre was interrupted. Jets fans, clad in white were loud and proud, but they couldn’t coax their team past the No. 1-seed in the West, because for the third straight game, the Jets led by a goal after two periods and couldn’t hold the lead.

Of course, to the delight of many in attendance, this was a rough and tumble affair. The Jets outhit the Ducks 61-44. That’s right, there were more than 100 hits in the game, something that has happened only rarely since the league started keeping that stat. In fact, a 60-hit night in the regular season is considered a hard-hitting game.

Michael Frolik celebrates Tyler Myers' goal (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Michael Frolik celebrates Tyler Myers’ goal (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Compared to the Minnesota-St. Louis game on Monday where there were 54 hits or the Rangers-Penguins game where there were 80- hits, the Jets-Ducks affair was like a rugby match. Even the Vancouver-Calgary game on Sunday, a game that was promoted by Sportsnet by using highlights(?) from the line brawl on Friday night, generated only 51 hits. To say the Jets and Ducks were aggressive might be understating the obvious.

Still, it was a very disappointed Jets head coach Paul Maurice who addressed the media after the game.

“I thought we were much better early in the game coming off our last game,” said Maurice. “We got a little opening in the second period coming off our power play. In the third period, we had about a four minute stretch where we squeezed the sticks a little too hard, but for the most part we played pretty well. We had plenty of chances.

“The energy in the building was there. It gave us good legs. We had good jump early. In the third period, I thought we handled it pretty darn well. That was the least aggressive they’ve been in the third period in the three games we’ve played. We’ve had leads in all three games, so it’s there.”

The Jets opened the scoring at 9:38 of the first period when Adam Lowry laid a perfect back pass onto the stick of Lee Stempniak who whacked the puck into the back of the net behind Frederik Andersen.

Wheeler beats Andersen (photo by Jeff Miller).

Wheeler beats Andersen (photo by Jeff Miller).

But Anaheim answered with a late goal in the first as Cam Fowler beat Ondrej Pavelec at 19:53 of the first period and the teams went to intermission tied at one.

The Jets won the second period by a score of 3-2. Anaheim’s Corey Perry gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at 3:08 and the deluge was on. Tyler Myers scored on a power play to tie it at 6:40 and then Blake Wheeler scored a dandy goal by ripping a shot under the bar to make it 3-2 Winnipeg. But Jacob Silfverberg, who has been outstanding in this series, scored on a snap shot at 16:04 to tie it up.

A few minutes later, Cam Fowler made a dumb play. The Ducks defenseman whipped a blind pass to the centre of the rink in his own zone and Bryan Little not only gobbled it up, he was able to rip a laser –beam slapshot over Andersen’s stick and under the bar. For the third straight game, the Jets took a one-goal lead – this time 4-3 – into the third period.

On the bright side, the Jets only gave up one goal in the third – not two. But once again, the big goal didn’t come until late. It was at 17:46 when Ryan Kesler took a pass from Silfverberg and ripped a shot into a wide-open net to send the game to overtime.

Still, the Jets will not forget the final two minutes of the third period. With the man advantage, Bryan Little hit the cross bar and Andrew Ladd was robbed by Andersen. The Jets had two glorious chances to win it, but failed to connect.

The Jets outshot the Ducks 34-27 in regulation time and often dominated the game, but they couldn’t hold the fort when it mattered most. In overtime, the Ducks outshot Winnipeg 4-1 and got a big goal from the guy who led all Ducks scorers against Winnipeg this season.

Well, somebody was happy (Photo by Jeff Miller).

Well, somebody was happy (Photo by Jeff Miller).

So now the Jets have their collective backs against the wall. They trail 3-0 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 coming up Wednesday night at 8:30 at the MTS Centre.

The Jets will have to figure out how to hold a lead or this series won’t make it to the weekend.



Looking For Jets White-Out Gear?

The dream is alive and well, and you still have time to get in on the whiteout!

Here are some great options for white Jets apparel that you can purchase today at one of these great Winnipeg RCS Locations, or by shopping online!

 

The BELIEVE T-Shirt

193906

The Go Jets Go T-Shirt

193797

 

The Go Team Go Hoodie

193931

 

The Ladies Sideline Track Jacket

 

190603

 

 

 

The Long Sleeve Knit Rib Crew

189143

 

 

 

 

Authentic Pro-Stitch Pre-Customized SCHEIFELE Jerseys

185301

 

 

Authentic Pro-Stitch Pre-Customized BYFUGLIEN Jerseys

185281

And there are still MANY more T-Shirts, Jerseys, and Everything Else available!

See you at the game!



All Hail Manitoba’s Hockey Stars

A storm is rolling back into Winnipeg. There is snow on the ground and “The White Out” is expected Monday night inside MTS Centre.

Although the Anaheim Ducks have a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Western Conference quarter-final with the Winnipeg Jets, the Jets are back home tonight at the friendly confines of the downtown rink. More than 15,000-plus-plus are expected at MTS Centre tonight, all wearing white, to cheer on the Jets as they play their first home playoff game since arriving from Atlanta in 2011 – and their first since the Jets 1.0 left town after losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the playoff series of 1996.

Ondrej Pavelec has to be Monday!

Ondrej Pavelec has to be at his best on Monday!

The Jets might be down 2-0 in this series to Anaheim, but they certainly aren’t out of it. Winnipeg has led both games, 2-1 and 1-0, after 40 minutes. Tonight, the Jets need a 60-minute effort against the top team in the Western Conference this season.

Game time tonight at MTS Centre is 8 p.m. Game 4 will go Wednesday at the downtown rink at 8:30 p.m. Game 5, if necessary is back in Anaheim, Game 6 is in Winnipeg and Game 7 is in Anaheim. The games can be seen on Sportsnet.

However, while the Jets prepare for Game 3 against the Ducks, a handful of other Manitoba players — our Manitoba players — are leaving their marks on this year’s post-season tournament…

Weise lets one go!

Weise lets one go!

1. Winnipeg’s Dale Weise was the hero for the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday. Weise scored at 14:13 of the third period to tie the game at 1-1 and then scored again at 8:47 of overtime to give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Weise, the game’s first star, gave the Canadiens a 3-0 series lead. In just 12 minutes and 56 seconds of ice time, Weise had three shots, two hits and a blocked shot.

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks by James Carey Lauder.

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by James Carey Lauder).

2. Winnipeg’s Jonathan Toews scored his second goal of the playoffs and dished out an assist as he led the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators. The game’s third star logged 16 minutes and 44 seconds of ice time and had three shots, three hits and a blocked shot as the Blackhawks took a 2-1 series lead.

Michael Ferland in the faceoff circle.

Michael Ferland in the faceoff circle.

3. And it was quite a night for Brandon/Swan River’s Michael Ferland. The feisty former Brandon Wheat Kings star logged 12 minutes and nine seconds of ice time and had a fight (with former Manitoba Moose Kevin Bieksa), one shot, eight hits and one blocked shot as he helped the Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. The Flames now have a 2-1 series lead.

As one scout said to me on the weekend, “Michael Ferland is making every one of the Vancouver Canucks squirrelly. He’s driving them nuts!”

This year’s playoffs wouldn’t be half as much fun without the players we know, the kids who grew up down the street. Manitoba is producing some outstanding hockey players these days and we can see proof of that every night, right in our living rooms.



Jets Lose Heartbreaker in Game 2

At the end of Saturday night’s Stanley Cup playoff game, the look of frustration and heartache on the face of Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said it all.

Anaheim’s Jacob Silfverberg scored at 19:39 of the third period to give his Ducks a 2-1 victory over the hard-luck Jets in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarter-final series.

The Jets were all over Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen.

The Jets were all over Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen.

With the win, the Ducks took a 2-0 series lead, heading back to Winnipeg for Game 3 on Monday night.

This was a horrible game for the Jets to lose. Especially considering a couple, if not three, penalties should have been called against the Ducks late in the game but were either missed or overlooked. There was an obvious too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty that should have been called against Anaheim with about three minutes to play, but was ignored. Even on the play preceding Silfverberg’s winner, the goal scorer himself should have been called for holding Bryan Little’s stick, but that too was left without penalty.

On the night, the Jets were zero-for-four on the power play while Anaheim was one-for-four. Winnipeg has yet to convert a power play opportunity in this series.

The Jets opened the scoring at 15:43 of the second period when defenseman Adam Pardy, who was told four minutes before the game that he’d be suiting up, replacing Ben Chiarot, made a great move around the Ducks defense, went behind the net and wrapped the puck around, beating Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.

Ondrej Pavelec made 37 saves and was the game's second star.

Ondrej Pavelec made 37 saves and was the game’s second star.

Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowery drew the assists.

However, for the second time in the first two games, the Jets couldn’t hold a one-goal lead after 40 minutes.

In the third period, big Patrick Maroon deflected a Cam Fowler shot to score Anaheim’s first goal at 10:43 and then Silfverberg scored the winner, ripping a shot from point-blank range past a startled Pavelec.

It was a shocking ending to a hard-fought game that looked for most of the third period as if it was headed toward overtime – and maybe even an all-night session of overtime.

But with only 21 seconds left on the clock, the Jets gave up a late goal and lost a game they had a great chance to steal. As it is, Anaheim will head to Winnipeg for games on Monday and Wednesday with a 2-0 series lead.

The best player on the ice for Winnipeg on Saturday was clearly the netminder. Pavelec made 37 saves as Winnipeg was outshot 39-29. Anaheim had 17 shots in the first period (17-9) and 17 more in the third (17-8). In all, Pavelec kept Anaheim scoreless through the first 49 minutes. He stopped Maroon and Matt Beleskey on partial breakaways and made a stunning left-pad save on Andrew Cogliano in the third. It was an especially heartbreaking loss for the goaltender.

Adam Pardy scores on the wrap around.

Adam Pardy scores on the wrap around.

However, it should be noted that the big, fast Ducks forwards often had their own way in front of Pavelec and a number of the TV experts believed referees Mike Leggo and Jean Hebert missed an obvious goalie interference call that should have gone against Anaheim late in the third period.

Not surprisingly, the Jets didn’t get a lot of calls, but they did have four power plays and even with the man-advantage, they had very few scoring chances. If the power play doesn’t improve this week in Winnipeg it might be a short series. On the bright side, the Ducks failed to convert a 23-second two-man advantage early in the first period after back-to-back high-sticking penalties to Pardy and Tyler Myers. The Ducks had a 14-3 shot advantage to start the game.

Despite the loss, the Jets did hold Anaheim to only two goals, the first time in five meetings this season that the Jets have held Anaheim to fewer than four goals in a game. It’s a big step, but at some point the Jets offensive stars are going to have to get going. Winnipeg has scored only three goals in two games in this series.

The Jets returned home early on Sunday morning and will prepare for a crucial Game 3 on Monday. Game time is 8 p.m. Game 4 will go Wednesday, April 22 at MTS Centre at 8:30 p.m. Game 5, if necessary is back in Anaheim, Game 6 is in Winnipeg and Game 7 is in Anaheim. All the games can be seen on Sportsnet.



Ducks Draw First Blood, Beat Jets 4-2

The Winnipeg Jets still haven’t solved the mystery of the Anaheim Ducks’ big men.

On Thursday night (and early Friday morning in Winnipeg), first star Corey Perry had two goals and two assists while second star Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists as the Ducks came back from a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes to beat the Jets 4-2.

Adam Lowry celebrates his first playoff goal.

Adam Lowry celebrates his first playoff goal.

With the win, the Ducks drew first blood in the opening round series of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s the second time the Thrashers/Jets franchise has reached the post-season and the teams – whether Winnipeg or Atlanta – have yet to win a game.

This one, however, was a rare one for Winnipeg. The Jets were 30-2-6 this season when leading after two periods, but on Thursday night in Anaheim, the Ducks simply had too much size and skill – and way too much Perry and Getzlaf.

“It was definitely physical,” said Jets forward Drew Stafford during his televised post-game news conference. “It was a tough hard-fought battle. We got into a little penalty trouble and we couldn’t overcome it. Next game we have to bring that physical play, but we have to do it between the whistles. We have to re-group and still make sure we bring that physical play.”

Sami Vatanen opened the scoring for Anaheim at 1:57 of the first period, but the Jets battled right back and scored at 2:46 as rookie Adam Lowry, playing in his first Stanley Cup playoff game, redirected a pass from Jacob Trouba and gave the Jets some early life.

This game was intense.

This game was intense.

In the second period, Drew Stafford scored the only goal at the five-minute mark and Winnipeg led 2-1 after two periods.

But in the third, it was all Perry and Getzlaf. The Ducks two stars completely took over the game. Perry scored at 1:09 and then tallied the winner on a beautiful individual effort at 13:21. That goal had to be reviewed, but the puck clearly went across the line.

To the Jets credit, they didn’t quit and actually started taking the play to the Ducks late in the frame, but a penalty to Michael Frolik for boarding at 16:09 was the dagger. Getzlaf scored on the power play and Anaheim had a 4-2 victory.

The Jets did get a late power play, but couldn’t beat Frederik Andersen and the Ducks took a 1-0 series lead.

Once again, the Jets couldn’t hold to the Ducks to fewer than four goals. In three games during the regular season, the Ducks won 4-3 in overtime in Winnipeg on Dec. 7, and then won 4-1 in Winnipeg on Dec. 13. Then on Jan. 11, the Ducks beat the Jets 5-4 in a shootout in Anaheim. While none of the goals on Thursday night could be blamed on Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg didn’t get the monster saves you often require to win in the playoffs.

In the end, Anaheim outshot Winnipeg 33-27, but it was an even 10-10 in the third period, a period that the scoresheet says Anaheim dominated.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

On the evening, Winnipeg was zero-for-three on the power play while Anaheim was two-for-three with a shorthanded goal. Obviously, the Jets have some work to do on special teams. Both Perry and Getzlaf scored power play goals in the third, but Perry’s second goal of the night – and the period – came off a neutral ice turnover by Blake Wheeler and was scored shorthanded.

If there is one thing head coach Paul Maurice knows, it’s that his Jets can be better — especially late in the game.

Game 2 in the series goes Saturday night at the Honda Centre in Anaheim. The first puck will be dropped at 9:30 CDT.



The Upstart Winnipeg Jets: As Good a Chance as Any

The best thing about the 2015 National Hockey League post-season is the randomness of it all.

This year’s Stanley Cup playoffs – for the first time in my lifetime – has no clear-cut favorite. Sure, Anaheim and the Rangers and Montreal and St. Louis were pretty good this season, but if you had $100 in your hand and were standing in front of the window at the Mirage Sportsbook, on which team would you lay your cash?

This guy will have to be really, really good. Or at least better than he was this season against Anaheim.

This guy will have to be really, really good. Or at least better than he was this season against Anaheim.

Tough choice, isn’t it? Frankly, the way the NHL season went, I wouldn’t want to bet against the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning or Minnesota Wild.

In fact, I can’t see betting against anybody. If there was ever a time when a Stanley Cup tournament was wide open, this is that time. There is no Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers or Detroit Red Wings dynasty anymore. The defending champion Los Angeles Kings didn’t even qualify. The team with the best recent history is Chicago because they’ve won two Cups since 2010. That’s hardly what dynastic prohibitive favorites are made of.

So when the Jets start tonight, don’t be surprised if the Wild and Senators or Jets and Islanders are still standing when June rolls around.

Winnipeg’s beloved Jets will start their best-of-seven opening round marathon against the Anaheim Ducks in Southern California on Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. CST. And while the Jets franchise might not have made the playoffs until now, there are 14 players on the roster with playoff experience and three – Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Michael Frolik – have Stanley Cup rings. Ladd has two (Carolina 2006 and Chicago 2010).

Regardless of what happens in a week or so, this series has the feel of a Western Conference final, especially if you consider that the Jets were one of best teams in the NHL in the final month and a half of the season and the Ducks (along with the Blues) might have the best personnel in the West. Anaheim finished the season 51-24-7, first in the Pacific Division while Winnipeg was 43-26-13, the second Wild Card but the team that finished seventh overall in the Conference. These two teams finished 10 points apart in the standings and while Anaheim won all three games between the two clubs, a couple of the outcomes were close.

This series will be tough. Little takes down Silfverberg.

This series will be tough. Little takes down Silfverberg.

Anaheim won 4-3 in overtime in Winnipeg on Dec. 7 and then won 4-1 in Winnipeg Dec. 13. Then on Jan. 11, the Ducks beat the Jets 5-4 in a shootout in Anaheim. The Ducks have been superior all year, but not by much.

Andrew Ladd with two goals and an assist, Dustin Byfuglien with a goal and two assists and Mathieu Perreault with three assists led the Jets with three points each against the Ducks this season, while Ondrej Pavelec went 0-0-2 against Anaheim.

Rickard Rakell paced Anaheim with four goals and six points while Ducks goaltender Frederik Anderson played in all three games, going a perfect 3-0-0 while allowing eight goals. The Jets have added a number of players since the last time they played Anaheim. It will be the first game as members of the Jets for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak. This is not the same Jets team that lost three times to the Ducks this season.

The Jets aggressive forecheck did not stop the Ducks from scoring this season and in all three meetings, the Jets goaltending was suspect. That’s not the way the Jets played down the stretch.

If Winnipeg expects to win this series, it will have to find a way to shut down Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and while that might be easier said than done, the fact that the Jets are much bigger and heavier than they were in January will give Winnipeg a bit of an edge.

The experts say it will be intense in front of this guy.

The experts say it will be intense in front of this guy.

For Winnipeg, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec must step up (Pavelec produced three straight shutouts in the final week to get the Jets into the post-season) and the Jets Top 7 forwards – Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele, Drew Stafford, Mathieu Perreault and Michael Frolik – must be at their best.

Still, to their credit, the Ducks can score, but overall, they only scored six more goals than the Jets this season.

The key for both teams will be their size and strength. This, I will guarantee: Dustin Byfuglien will be Public Enemy No. 1 in Southern California by the end of this weekend. He can hit, he likes to hit and he has a nasty temper. He will be running at people and the Ducks and their fans will feel his presence.

Defensively, any group led by Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler, James Wisniewski and Sami Vatanen will be good. These guys can skate, move the puck quickly, have big shots and can generate offense from the back end. Still, the Jets are a handful. Winnipeg has big forwards who are certainly not afraid. If Winnipeg can bang these guys, especially the 5-foot-10 Vatanen and the 5-foot-11 (32-year-old) Wisniewski

Still, there is little doubt that head coach Paul Maurice believes in his players and the Jets players obviously believe in themselves. However, even with a marvelous collection of shooters, the Jets will need to outscore a team the features Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Jacob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell and Kyle Palmieri (who scored a magnificent overtime winner in Winnipeg back in December).

Rickard Rakell led all Ducks scorers against Winnipeg this season.

Rickard Rakell led all Ducks scorers against Winnipeg this season.

Fortunately, the Jets defensive unit is rock solid and the goaltending has been frighteningly good, and that if that keeps up – three shutouts in a row and one goal in 245 minutes down the stretch — so the Jets might not need to score very much.

Not many so-called hockey experts are picking the Jets to win this one. Although, most say that if the Jets do survive, they could easily become Western Conference champions.

And what the heck? With great goaltending comes playoff miracles. If Pavelec continues to play the way he did last week, he should run for Premier. He’s already a lot more popular than Greg Selinger will ever be. In the meantime, the Jets mantra should be check, check, check and check some more. If they do, there is no telling what might happen.

The first home game for the Jets is Monday April 20, at 8:30 p.m. CDT (what a stupid time for a home game in Winnipeg). I suspect the MTS Centre will be rockin’.



Cleveland Browns New Uniforms: New Unis, Same Lousy Team

It hasn’t been a great off-season for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Johnny Manziel went into rehab and the GM was suspended four games for texting the coach during a game. Oh well, the owner didn’t go to jail for price fixing gasoline so there is always a silver lining.

In order to give their beleaguered fans something to cheer about, the club unveiled their new uniforms this week. The fans seemed to love them.

Nearly 3,000 Browns supporters — a majority of whom were season-ticket holders — were invited to the Cleveland Convention Center to pose for pictures with current and past players.

So the Browns have a new motto: “New uniforms, same lousy team”

The Browns new uniforms.

The Browns new uniforms.