Game 5 Preview: Jets vs Golden Knights - April 27th
I have been through some difficult and challenging times in my life...for example, I once lost almost two precious hours watching the movie Mamma Mia and think I might have even listened to a whole Celine Dion song at some point. So that should give you an idea of the level of resiliency that I possess, but even so, I'm not sure anything I have done before could have prepared me for a challenging task such as writing a positive preview for the upcoming Winnipeg Jets match. Now that you all are aware of the challenges I faced, here is what I came up with, not sure it hits the mark....
On Thursday, April 27th, the Jets of Winnipeg will be in Las Vegas to face off against their Golden Knights in a Game 5 battle. Vegas currently has a stranglehold on the series, coming in with a 3 to 1 game lead, giving the Jets a slim 9.7% chance of winning three straight games. Winnipeg will be hoping to force at least one more playoff game in front of their visually appealing but ineffective in producing wins WhiteOut crowd though, so I expect a hard fought affair.
Alright, that wasn't very positive......okay, well, I am positive that Mark Scheifele won't be playing for the Jets tomorrow. Umm..while that fact is true, that's not exactly what they were looking for.
Maybe this will provide some optimism? Our hometown Winnipeg Jets are 2-1 in Game 5's in the NHL playoffs (outscoring opponents 13-5), beating the Minnesota Wild 5-0 and the Nashville Predators 6-2 in 2017-18, while losing to the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in 2018-19. Another bright spot is that Connor Hellebuyck has played very well in Game 5's, putting up a .949 save percentage over the 3 games. Former captain Blake Wheeler has also produced in the 5th game of a series, amassing 4 pts in 3 matches (tied with #55 for the team lead).
Unfortunately, when you look at the Jets lines at practice today, there isn't much to provide hope at first glance.
But you could feel better when you consider that it is likely that most of the players missing practice or are day-to-day will be in the lineup for the important match up. Other than Scheifele, Morrissey, & Perfetti (skating in non-contact uniform), there is a good chance we will be cheering on the likes of Dubois (didn't practice), Appleton (left practice early), Stenlund (didn't practice), and Ehlers (skating in normal jersey) when the puck drops on Thursday night. That likely means PLD will replace Gustafsson on the top line and Stenlund will center the 4th, while Maenalanen will move to the wing, bumping Kuhlman to the pressbox.
Also missing practice was backup goaltender Rittich, which means Winnipeg has currently pillaged the Manitoba Moose's main goaltenders (Holm and Salminen) with their first AHL playoff series starting on Friday. Hopefully Rittich heals quickly and at least one of Holm/Salminen can be sent down to play instead of Evan Cormier in that important opening game.
While Winnipeg may be behind in the series, there have been plenty of promising signs from players that could have positive long-term impacts. First up is the outstanding play the Jets have gotten from Neal Pionk. After a couple of poor seasons (including this year's regular season games), the RHD has absolutely stepped up his game with increased minutes and is the leading scorer in the entire series with 7 points. The American has two years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.875M, so his improved play could make him a more desirable trade target in the off-season or provide hope that we will see better play from him in the future.
Another thing to smile about is the play of Adam Lowry, who had played very well during the regular season and then stepped it up a level in the post-season. The big centerman has always been efficient defensively, but this year's playoffs have seen him emerge as a leader that can help his team offensively as well. Had all the Jets top players been healthy & playing well, Lowry's play would have really made them a solid 3 line team.
My third star for Winnipeg this post-season has been Nino Niederreiter, who provides the team with much needed physical play from the forward position. What might end up as Chevy's second last trade as the Jets' GM has certainly worked out well for our team and is one player I am glad will be back next season.
Both the Jets & Knights have 5 players averaging at least a point per game so far...with Pionk (7), Wheeler (5), Lowry (4), Niederreiter (4), and Dubois (4) doing it for Winnipeg.
I expect Winnipeg to come out flying to start the game and hope that some early goal scoring luck combined with a Vezina-esque game by Helly will make it a memorable one. With all the ups & downs the Winnipeg Jets have provided us fans this year....I have a feeling that they have one last UP in them, so let's hope it's a BIG one!!
GO JETS GO!!