May 26, 2018

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Scheifele on fire, but only number he cares about is how many wins left to hoist Cup

Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny (25) celebrates Mark Scheifele's (not shown) goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Nate Schmidt (88) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p>

Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny (25) celebrates Mark Scheifele's (not shown) goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Nate Schmidt (88) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Mark Scheifele is the Winnipeg Jets' resident expert on all things NHL, and has been since the day he became a full-time member of the team in the fall of 2013.

So, there's some reluctance to buy what Encyclopedia Scheifele was selling Monday morning following the Jets' morning skate at Bell MTS Place.

Winnipeg's top centre is having himself quite a Stanley Cup playoff run. He led the post-season goal-scoring race with 12 in 13 games and was looking to add to that flashy total Monday night as the red-hot Jets hosted the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.

Along the way, the self-proclaimed "hockey nerd" set a new NHL record for most goals (seven) on the road in a single playoff series during the Jets' seven-game Round 2 triumph over the Nashville Predators.

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Mark Scheifele is the Winnipeg Jets' resident expert on all things NHL, and has been since the day he became a full-time member of the team in the fall of 2013.

So, there's some reluctance to buy what Encyclopedia Scheifele was selling Monday morning following the Jets' morning skate at Bell MTS Place.

Winnipeg's top centre is having himself quite a Stanley Cup playoff run. He led the post-season goal-scoring race with 12 in 13 games and was looking to add to that flashy total Monday night as the red-hot Jets hosted the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.

Along the way, the self-proclaimed "hockey nerd" set a new NHL record for most goals (seven) on the road in a single playoff series during the Jets' seven-game Round 2 triumph over the Nashville Predators.

Has No. 55 spent any time studying the list of the league's top playoff producers?

"It’s not about that at all. It’s about getting wins and it’s about winning series. It’s not about personal accolades," he said. "It’s not about points. It’s not about any of that. It’s all about the team’s success."

A follow-up question was posed, "Is that a no, that you haven't looked?" for clarification purposes.

"It’s a no. Yes," Scheifele replied.

Maybe he is or maybe he isn't following the individual post-season statistical stories. But believe Scheifele when he says he's motivated not by the total number of points he accrues but by seeing regular improvements in his game and the continued impact he and his linemates, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor, have on the Jets' playoff fortunes.

"You continue to work on things in practice. You just continue to learn. Every game you play, you find out something new about you, or someone else or the other team and you just have to continue to enjoy it and keep learning," he said. "You go through the ups and you go through the downs. You reflect on it and then you become better for it.

"It’s been going good. I play with some pretty unbelievable players. (Wheeler and Connor) make my job really easy. They’re easy to read off of and they’re unbelievable talents."

•••

Jets snipers Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers have all discovered that scoring in the intense, tight-checking and physical playoffs is, indeed, a tough task.

Prior to Monday's game, Laine had rifled four goals, including a power-play tally in Game 1 against Vegas, Connor had a pair and Ehlers was still looking for his first.

They're also learning the hard way how challenging it can be to move the puck up the wall and out of the defensive zone without it being stripped off their sticks or knocked down before it's safely across the blue line.

Laine, in particular, has been guilty of turning over the puck several times in each of the three playoff series.

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said it's just more on-the-job training for the talented youngster.

"There’s a balance there, all learned skills. A guy coming over from Finland wouldn’t be dealing with a heavy pinch down the walls. There is some, but the rink is a little wider (in Finland) and there are different escape routes and it’s a different way of handling those pucks. So this is all new to him," said Maurice. "We’ve just come through a series (Nashville) where the (defence) are very aggressive and mistakes are going to happen.

"The advantage we’ve had with our young players — with Connor and Ehlers and Patrik in that group is that they’re still able to produce while they’re learning. So, if you’ve got a guy who turns the puck over three or four times in his own end but there’s really nothing else he can offer you, then that’s a real problem finding him ice (time).

"Over the last two years, maybe late in a game I cut the ice of those kids because I knew the play was going to be in our end and you’re holding the lead. But they never sat on the bench (as a punishment for a turnover)."

•••

Alex Tuch was a skill guy at Boston College and that offensive touch re-emerged during a fine NHL rookie season with Vegas. The 22-year-old from Syracuse, N.Y., registered 15 goals and 37 points in 78 games playing the bulk of the time alongside centre Cody Eakin, a Winnipegger.

He had four goals and three assists in seven post-season games coming into Monday's contest.

While Tuch is blessed with some size, that six-foot-four, 225-pound frame was on the receiving end of more checks that it dished out in Game 1 on Saturday.

"I was just trying to be physical. I was on the wrong end of a couple of hits and my nose and my face (are) a little busted up. I knew that Winnipeg is a heavy team, so in a game like that you have to push back," he said after Monday's game-day skate.

At one point, he was lined up to lay the body on gargantuan defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, but bounced off and crashed to the ice.

"I wound up landing on my face, but I guess I should have been a bit more ready. But it was a good hit by him," Tuch said.

•••

The Jets' contingent of healthy bodies just got even larger.

The club recalled 13 players from their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. None is expected to participate in the playoffs unless the NHL squad gets struck by a rash of injuries.

Manitoba's season ended Friday with a fourth-straight playoff loss to the Rockford Ice Hogs.

Winnipeg recalled goalie Eric Comrie, defencemen Julian Melchiori, Nelson Nogier, Sami Niku, Jan Kostalek and Logan Stanley and forwards Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, Chase De Leo, Nic Petan, Michael Spacek, Brendan Lemieux and J.C. Lipon.

The Jets already have goalie Michael Hutchinson, defenceman Tucker Poolman and forwards Marko Dano, Shawn Matthias, Jack Roslovic and Matt Hendricks as healthy scratches during the playoffs.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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