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This article was published 11/4/2019 (651 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was the Stanley Cup won — or lost — on the opening night of the playoffs.
And so the Winnipeg Jets insist they won't let a frustrating Game 1 defeat to the St. Louis Blues derail their big-picture view, which they still believe can include a championship celebration later this spring.
"Who was the last team to go 16-0 in the playoffs? Has that ever happened. We didn’t expect to do that," a stoic captain Blake Wheeler said Thursday as his team gathered for some video review and an optional practice ahead of Game 2 Friday night (8:30 p.m., Bell MTS Place)
"The playoffs are so much about how you control your emotions. You win a game and all of a sudden you feel like you’re going to win the Stanley Cup. You lose a game and you feel you’ve got no chance. The good teams find a way to manage those emotions."
Wheeler noted the Washington Capitals lost the first two games of the playoffs last year and were a "crossbar away from going down 3-0" in the opening round to Columbus. The Capitals would end up winning Game 3 in double-overtime against the Blue Jackets, then never really look back as they eventually won their first Stanley Cup.
Wheeler also pointed out that one of the best regular-season teams in the NHL history, the Tampa Bay Lightning, blew a 3-0 lead Wednesday to Columbus, losing 4-3 on home ice in shocking fashion. Nashville, the Central Division winners, also fell in Game 1 to wild-card Dallas.
"There’s so much parity in the league, if you’re going to be devastated by a loss or two losses, you have no business expecting to win the Stanley Cup. So how we’re going to manage that is that we’ll learn from the things we did well (Wednesday) night, some of the things we can do better (Friday) night and try to get the outcome we’re looking for, show up excited, show up and work the way our team knows how to work and if, God-willing, we aren’t able to win that game or we win that game, we’re going to manage it the exact same way going into St. Louis," he said.
There are no consolation prizes in the playoffs, no rewards for a good effort that comes up short, and yet, players seemed to feel they did many of the right things Wednesday and were left wondering "what if" as they now try to at least salvage a split before the scene shifts to Missouri.
A Dustin Byfuglien post. A Patrik Laine post. And a Par Lindholm short-handed solo dash all gave the Jets a chance to turn a 1-0 lead Wednesday into something bigger.
"I would certainly do something different. I didn't score. I was on the PK and got a breakaway. I couldn't get it in the net. I'd probably do something else if I did it again," said Lindholm, who has just one goal all season.
"I know I can score goals. It doesn't feel like that right now. I keep doing the things I've done the last years and keep working on that. I don't think about it too much."
Failing to double the lead proved costly, as the Blues rallied with a pair of goals in the third-period. Mark Scheifele then had a glorious chance to tie it with 12 seconds left, but couldn't get the puck high enough and shot it right into Jordan Binnington's right pad.
"I wish it would have went in. I didn’t put it where I wanted to but that’s the way hockey goes," said Scheifele, who bristled when asked if he'd watched the replay.
"Yeah, I saw it. I know what happened. I lived it. Don’t need to beat a dead horse. Obviously, I wish it would have gone in."
Scheifele did provide a big highlight on the night when he crashed into St. Louis rookie goalie Jordan Binnington just 34 seconds into the game, drawing an interference penalty and the ire of the Blues.
"It’s a tough play. I was trying very desperately to get out of the way. Obviously, I’m not a guy that’s going go out and try and hit a goaltender. So it’s one of those plays where I feel like I’m entitled to my ice. He just tosses the puck to the other side and if I go one way and he goes the same way, I’m hitting him way harder than I did. I tried very hard to get out of the way. Refs made the call," Scheifele said.
The collision set a nasty tone between the teams, which included plenty of physicality both ways.
"We came out firing, hitting, doing all the right stuff. So that's hard on your body," said forward Mathieu Perreault, who was on the receiving end of a few big bumps.
"We want to come out doing that, for sure. It's hard to keep that for 60, but if you can come out doing that for the first 20 and take a lead like we did, it's ideal. We liked the way we started the game."
And the finish, which included blowing a third-period lead and losing for an NHL-worst 10th time this season?
"Obviously losing the first game is tough, but you've got to win four to win the series. We're focusing on the next one," said Perreault. "That's the one thing we've learned from last year. The Vegas series, it seemed once we started losing games we could never recover from it. It's a new year. Hopefully we can put this one behind us. We lost a game that we deserved better."
Josh Morrissey, who returned Wednesday from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the final 20 regular-season games, said he doesn't feel any sense of panic in the room despite the result.
"That’s going to be how this series looks. It’s going to be a grinding series and both teams are really tight. It could come down to the wire like that in games. We don’t lose our confidence at all from that. Obviously, we try to learn some things from that game and some things that we can do better, just as they’re doing today, as well. It’s a chess match. We think this is going to be a long series, hopefully, and that’s what we know what we have to do," said Morrissey.
Coach Paul Maurice said he doesn't believe his team is fragile.
"Confidence in the playoffs is all brand-new, right? Everything is brand new. So you're building from zero. You can take all the good things that you thought you did in the regular season. Tampa Bay’s never giving up a three-goal lead all year long and, boom, it happens to you. So everything starts brand-new in the playoffs until you close one out and you feel better, a little better about that, and you got to keep doing that," said Maurice.
"And if you don't, then you're not going to have a string of many games left to worry about it."
HELP IS ON THE WAY? Could the Jets get a big boost Friday from the anthem singers? The Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus will once again be in the house, hoping to give the home team some extra jump with rousing renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada.
For what it's worth, the Jets are 5-0-0 when Hoosli sings, outscoring opponents an incredible 30-11. That includes a 5-0 victory last month over Nashville in what might have been their most complete game of the season.
There's also a chance energy winger Brandon Tanev could return to action after missing the past three games with a hand injury. Maurice would only say he's a possibility. Tanev took part in the optional practice Thursday.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.