Andrew Copp either spun cartwheels or sunk into a funk, depending on how the Winnipeg Jets fared in any given playoff game earlier in his career.
There was no middle ground for the Michigan product.
Six years in, the 26-year-old forward admits he's now able to balance his emotions during the pressure-packed NHL postseason. And he refuses to elevate the joy level to extremes, even as the Jets possess a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series with the Edmonton Oilers.
"You just take it one game at a time," Copp said Saturday morning, delivering a well-worn cliche with a sincerity that revived its relevance. "Early in my career, whenever you won a game in the playoffs it felt like you were going to win the Stanley Cup. Whenever you lost a game in playoffs, it was like the world was ending. Now, a little bit more level-headed.
"We still have a ways to go in the series. No one is popping champagne or anything like that. We’re still a focused group. We know a push is coming, for sure."
Indeed, the expectation is the Oilers will turn up Sunday in an ornery mood as the North Division series shifts to the Manitoba capital. Game 3 is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Jets downtown home.
Blue-liner Josh Morrissey maintains the dramatics have only just begun.
"Certainly coming in as the road team into Edmonton, it’s great to get a couple of wins and feel the confidence that we should have from those wins," he said, during a morning Zoom chat with reporters. "Everybody understands you have to win four games to win a series, so there’s a lot of work to be done."
Winnipeg registered a pair of sound victories in Edmonton, the most recent, a 1-0 win, coming Friday night on the strength of veteran centre Paul Stastny's seeing-eye shot that beat goalie Mike Smith just 4:06 into overtime.
Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was nothing short of brilliant, posting a 38-save shutout, the third playoff goose egg of his career. Overall, he's turned aside 70 of 71 shots, with the lone goal against coming off the stick of Jesse Puljujarvi in Winnipeg's 4-1 triumph Wednesday night in Game 1.
Astonishly, the league's pre-eminent point producers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, were held off the scoresheet at Rogers Place after running roughshod over the Jets when the Oilers prevailed in seven of nine meetings during the abbreviated regular season.
It's a statistic with no bearing on the state of affairs now, yet the series could turn in a moment owing to Edmonton's star power and the squad's sense of urgency.
"Obviously, I think we’ve played two solid games as a group, been able to find a way to get two big wins on the road. But there’s no celebrating amongst our group, that’s for sure," offered Morrissey. "We know how talented those players are, how talented they are in their ability to score goals and make plays. So, there’s no time to let your foot off the gas or sort of think you have it figured out."
McDavid led the league with 105 points in 56 games, while Draisaitl had 84. Edmonton bench boss Dave Tippett combined their powers for Game 2, and they combined for nine shots but zero goals.
The Jets limited their time and space, stole pucks, blocked shots and tried to rattle them with physicality.
"We can look at a lot of the things we’ve done well, and we should be a confident group in our ability to try to bring our best game," said Morrissey. "But we still are focused on the task at hand and we’re going to have to be even sharper and better as the series goes on because like I said before, we know (Edmonton will) be better and those top players for them are going to continue to be better as well."
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice has utilized his entire lineup, and hasn't been afraid to call on the third defensive pairing of Tucker Poolman and 6-7 rookie Logan Stanley in key situations. The pair has been trapped in its own end on a couple of occasions but has impressed with its size and strength, effective gap and surprising mobility.
"Two young players, in terms of games in the NHL, but both of them, for big men, skate very well. They’re here to defend and they can with size and speed. But Tucker scores the tying goal (in Game 1) and Logan shoots the puck on the game winner. So, there’s offence there, different kinds," Maurice said.
"What they’ve done well is they’ve closed ice and they’ve been big, strong men who have killed plays in the corner. They’ve played very well for us."
To maintain the series edge, there can be no abandoning the all-hands-on-deck approach now. Expect Maurice to continue to spread out the minutes, particularly as the clubs collide in Game 4 just 24 hours later.
"Getting everybody into the flow of the game is important because, as you saw in the first game, any line for us can step up and make a huge impact. So, making sure all four lines are in the game, obviously with a back-to-back coming up that’s going to be more important," said Copp.
"You never know when games are going to go to overtime… you spread out the minutes a little bit more than the (Oilers) do maybe, it’ll lead to fresher legs in overtime, hopefully."
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).