September 24, 2018

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Perreault making the most of Jets playoff run

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Nashville Predators' Roman Josi and Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault fight for the puck during playoff action in Winnipeg on Monday. Perreault knows there is a fine line between winning and losing in the playoffs.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Nashville Predators' Roman Josi and Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault fight for the puck during playoff action in Winnipeg on Monday. Perreault knows there is a fine line between winning and losing in the playoffs.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mathieu Perreault still recalls those glorious days chasing the Stanley Cup, the blood and sweat expended to finally win it.

It was all just make-believe stuff, mind you, crafted on his neighbourhood streets in Drummondville, Que., where he played road hockey with his buddies.

But the childhood memories remain vivid for the veteran Winnipeg Jets forward.

“You put yourself in the situation when you're young, playing in the street, where you're playing for the Stanley Cup. I always played to win hockey games. It was never about how many points I could get,” said Perreault on Thursday afternoon. “I'm a very competitive guy. I like winning. This will stick with you forever. (It’s) Game 7, I would find a way to win them.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mathieu Perreault still recalls those glorious days chasing the Stanley Cup, the blood and sweat expended to finally win it.

It was all just make-believe stuff, mind you, crafted on his neighbourhood streets in Drummondville, Que., where he played road hockey with his buddies.

But the childhood memories remain vivid for the veteran Winnipeg Jets forward.

"You put yourself in the situation when you're young, playing in the street, where you're playing for the Stanley Cup. I always played to win hockey games. It was never about how many points I could get," said Perreault on Thursday afternoon. "I'm a very competitive guy. I like winning. This will stick with you forever. (It’s) Game 7, I would find a way to win them.

"My mom always said, ‘I don't want you coming home with a scratched knee’, because I was diving to win that game. It was to win the Stanley Cup. I always worked so hard to get to that point."

Pro hockey is a game for grown-ups but the lofty goals of most NHL players started just like everyone else, with ball hockey games interrupted by passing cars, Saturday afternoon shinny at the community club or some heated mini-stick action in the rec-room.

Perreault is one of the lucky ones. His dream of finally capturing a championship lives on after the Jets soared past the Nashville Predators 5-1 in Game 7 of the best-of-seven second-round series.

The stakes get raised even higher as the Jets now face the Vegas Golden Knights for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup final later this month.

Perreault, in his ninth NHL season and with his third team, has yet to participate in a conference final series. In 2013, the Washington Capitals lost Game 7 to the New York Rangers in an opening-round series. A year later, when he was with Anaheim the Ducks, they dispatched the Dallas Stars in six games to open the playoffs but then lost in seven to the eventual league-champion L.A. Kings.

He said the postseason wears on every team, even the favourites, adding players can’t take Cup runs for granted.

"It shows how hard it is. It's such a fine line between winning and losing. It's going to be no different for us. It's such a fine line," said Perreault.

"When I was in Washington… Game 7 to the Rangers, I was 22 I think at the time. I didn't realize really what was happening. To me that was just normal being there, because we were there every year," Now, getting older, you realize this may never present itself again. So you've just got to make the most of it.

That’s a message he’s conveyed to several of his younger teammates who possess star power.

"I’ve told them already. It doesn't really sink in. They'll figure it out on their own," said Perreault, in the first of a four-year, US$16.5 million deal with Winnipeg.

Just this year his former team, the Capitals, finally qualified for the NHL’s final four. He said it was great Alex Ovechkin and the gang finally got over that seemingly impassable hump.

"It's kind of nice for them and a bunch of guys I played with there. (John) Carlson, (Jay) Beagle, (Braeden) Holtby – those are the guys I played with in Hershey. We won a (AHL’s) Calder Cup together, two of them (2009 and’10). So, those are friendships that will last forever, when you win championships. It was nice to see them moving forward," Perreault said.

"You look at (Ovechkin’s) playoff stats, he's always been a great playoff guy. His stats are there. Sometimes it's just a bounce, here and there. Maybe this year they've got the bounces going their way."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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