December 6, 2019

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Long and winding road begins tomorrow for Jets

Ondrej Pavelec, left, at a Winnipeg Jets practice.

BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ondrej Pavelec, left, at a Winnipeg Jets practice.

Five takes about the Winnipeg Jets, the Anaheim Ducks and the Stanley Cup playoffs as the annual tournament opens tonight….

1. So the long and winding road to the Stanley Cup – the toughest championship to capture in sports – begins tonight, tomorrow for the Jets.

These are the last few hours for poolies to jump in, for fans to make their picks in each series. Yours truly likes the Rangers in the East, the Blues out here in the West but – like everyone – those are just guesses. Tampa has a ton of talent, Carey Price could carry Montreal a long way and Chicago could be a real contender again with Patrick Kane miraculously healed and back again.

And the Ducks, for all their regular-season success, aren’t getting as much love from ‘experts’ as we thought they would heading into the playoffs. One reason, perhaps, is some of their flaws/question marks are so glaring. There is their uncertain goaltending with Frederik Andersen, John Gibson and Jason LaBarbera. There is their mediocre special teams. And one of the most telling is this: their goal differential (goals for minus goals against) was just +10 during the regular season. That’s a shocking number for a team that finished 51-24-7.

By comparison, the Jets were +20 and the NHL leaders were the Rangers (+60), Tampa (+50), St. Louis (+47) and Chicago (+40). The Ducks +10 ranked 17th.

 

2. Stating the obvious here, but if the Jets are to get past the Ducks and into the second round Ondrej Pavelec is going to need to continue to play out of his skull. The Jets – who have really bought into Paul Maurice’s "everybody has a piece of this" approach – are going to need a lot of heroic performances, but the man in the blue paint is always under the microscope. Pavelec is listed as 50-1 to win the Conn Smythe as the NHL playoff MVP by Bodog.ca, FYI, with Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien (75-1) all at the bottom of the following list:

Odds to win 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL Playoff MVP

Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) 19/2

Devan Dubnyk (MIN) 14/1

Carey Price (MON) 15/1

Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) 16/1

Pekka Rinne (NAS) 18/1

Sidney Crosby (PIT) 20/1

Rick Nash (NYR) 20/1

Brian Elliott (STL) 20/1

Frederik Andersen (ANA) 20/1

Alex Ovechkin (WAS) 25/1

Jonathan Toews (CHI) 25/1

Patrick Kane (CHI) 25/1

Corey Crawford (CHI) 25/1

Ben Bishop (TB) 25/1

Zach Parise (MIN) 25/1

Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) 25/1

Corey Perry (ANA) 25/1

Steven Stamkos (TB) 25/1

Andrew Hammond (OTT) 30/1

John Tavares (NYI) 30/1

Jaroslav Halak (NYI) 30/1

Henrik Sedin (VAN) 30/1

Eddie Lack (VAN) 30/1

Martin St. Louis (NYR) 30/1

Daniel Sedin (VAN) 35/1

Evgeni Malkin (PIT) 35/1

T.J. Oshie (STL) 35/1

Braden Holtby (WAS) 35/1

Alexander Steen (STL) 40/1

P.K. Subban (MON) 40/1

Max Pacioretty (MON) 40/1

Shea Weber (NAS) 40/1

Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) 40/1

Pavel Datsyuk (DET) 40/1

Petr Mrazek (DET) 40/1

Patrick Sharp (CHI) 40/1

Nicklas Backstrom (WAS) 45/1

Thomas Vanek (MIN) 50/1

Mark Stone (OTT) 50/1

Marian Hossa (CHI) 50/1

Duncan Keith (CHI) 50/1

Jonas Hiller (CAL) 50/1

Henrik Zetterberg (DET) 50/1

Tyler Johnson (TB) 50/1

Ondrej Pavelec (WIN) 50/1

Radim Vrbata (VAN) 50/1

Bobby Ryan (OTT) 60/1

Filip Forsberg (NAS) 65/1

Erik Karlsson (OTT) 65/1

Kyle Okposo (NYI) 75/1

Kyle Turris (OTT) 75/1

Jiri Hudler (CAL) 75/1

Johnny Gaudreau (CAL) 75/1

Andrew Ladd (WIN) 75/1

Blake Wheeler (WIN) 75/1

Dustin Byfuglien (WIN) 75/1

 

3. Lots of good reads out there leading up to the start of the playoffs. One of the pieces I enjoyed the most today comes from Eric Stephens, the beat writer for The Orange County Register, on Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Here’s Perry, from the piece:

"Times like this don’t come around too often. We have a great team. But also we haven’t gotten out of the second round since we won in ’07. Those are tough things to swallow. You think it’s going to happen all the time. "At the end of the day, you only get so many chances at this. You got to go out and you got to do it and you got to earn it. There’s no better time than now. That’s kind of what we’re thinking."

The entire article can be found here.

And if you want to keep following Eric’s excellent work, he can be found on Twitter at @icemancometh

 

4. There was lots of good stuff from the Jets dressing room Tuesday before they headed out to Anaheim in the afternoon. One chunk, courtesy Adam Lowry, that I couldn’t squeeze into the paper that speaks of the leadership of Andrew Ladd & Co.

Said Lowry: "With Laddy being our captain, he brings a tremendous amount of leadership for us. He’s a pretty calming influence: when he gets going our whole team gets going. With Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) and Fro (Michael Frolik), they’re pretty important pieces on the ice as well as off the ice. In crunch time when things are going to be getting tougher that’s when we’ll need to draw on their experience."

 

5. And, finally, many of us can feel the excitement locally as the Jets get ready to open the series in Anaheim. We’d like to capture some of that, if we could, in this daily playoff blog. Send me your pictures, funny business signs – anything that captures the spirit of the buildup to Game 3 – and we’ll try to post a couple with this piece.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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