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This article was published 19/4/2018 (921 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The verbal jousting between Paul Maurice and Bruce Boudreau has dominated the days between Games 4 and 5 of their teams’ opening-round playoff series.
When I look at the good and bad moments in the Winnipeg Jets-Minnesota Wild series, comments by the two head coaches were triggered by a bad situation — the Josh Morrissey cross-check to Eric Staal’s neck.
Morrissey’s suspension for tonight’s Game 5 just made things a lot more difficult for the Jets. He’s been rock-solid and leaves a huge hole, considering the tough minutes he plays.
He deserved the suspension. While you might point to some Wild transgressions as being worthy of a phone conversation with the NHL’s player safety department, that doesn’t change that they got this one right.
The media fireworks amped up after the missed penalty call and Boudreau used the ill-advised words "it cost us the game."
Indeed, every play after that would not have been the same if Morrissey had been thrown out of the game. However, coaches are human and to judge him too harshly for using an absolute in that emotional moment isn’t fair.
Maurice was much more artistic in his approach. His defence of Morrissey was wonderfully poetic. While the NHL ignored him, it was a solid effort.
The Jets may now have to ice a top-four defence that has both Ben Chiarot and Joe Morrow in it (Tyler Myers and Toby Enstrom are possible starters). I’m concerned every time a defenceman takes this big a leap from their normal position in the lineup — they often get in over their heads. However, it’s not nearly as frightening for just one game.
While they’re extremely unlikely to win three games in a row, let’s give the Wild credit. They were excellent in their Game 3 win and hung in there until an empty-net goal sealed a 2-0 shutout loss on Tuesday.
While the Jets deserve to be up 3-1, they’ve had some struggles with the Wild’s game plan at times.
One concern I had coming into the series is something I’ve mentioned a few times during the season. I couldn’t understand why the opposition’s penalty-killing units would continually let Blake Wheeler set up and give him an option to pass to one of his snipers, Patrik Laine or Mark Scheifele.
Boudreau has answered: his short-handed units are taking away those options, forcing Winnipeg’s power play into rotating, trying to find a setup that works. His disruption has been successful so far, but it’s a small sample.
This is a bit worrisome moving forward, as teams they face in the future get to see what works now, unless the Jets find an answer quickly.
Minnesota also made a nice even-strength adjustment in Game 3, igniting the win. By having their defencemen whip the puck up the ice quickly right off the hop, and having the puck directed quickly into the Jets’ zone, it allowed the Wild to establish a strong forecheck. This basically killed any chance of the Jets getting into their usually strong offensive rhythm.
Naturally, the Jets adjusted last game — livelier legs, better puck placement and gaps all helped.
As predicted, the Wild’s ability to take away the slot area and most dangerous scoring chances has been successful most of the time. This would cause more anxiety if the Jets weren’t doing the same to the Wild at even strength. To me, it’s maybe the most underrated (as talking points go) part of the series, as far as the Jets are concerned.
I mentioned last week that the coaching battle will be interesting to watch, as both Boudreau and Maurice have something to prove statistically — the former’s playoff record, the latter overall. They haven’t disappointed.
When you’re in a position like the Jets are, there are obviously some good things going on.
You can start in goal with Vezina finalist Connor Hellebuyck and talk about team defence. I don’t believe there’s any skater that’s carried the team abnormally; it’s been pretty much as expected from most players.
With Laine leading the team with four points, it’s easy to see it has taken many contributors to get to this point.
In true playoff style, there have been a number of big hits dished out, with the Jets more than happy to play that game. Of course, separating the opposition from the puck is the main reason for it, but to also punish at the same time just doubles the fun for Jets fans.
One player who hasn’t ignited yet and might have more to give is Nikolaj Ehlers. I’m not picking on him, as I could throw in a few others, too, but I believe he’s the one most likely to break out.
He just hasn’t been the electric player that he normally is. I wonder if it’s the Wild’s style that has him stymied, or if he’s just figuring out how to use his blinding speed and skill in his first taste of playoff action. Maybe we’ll find out in Game 5.
The Wild can make it interesting when they play their best game. When they’re not, you’re just counting down the time until the next Jets goal.
With their season on the line and a hurting Jets blue line, I expect we’ll see everything they’ve got tonight.
I just don’t think it’s enough.
Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.
Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.
Updated on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:45 AM CDT: Final
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