Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 17/4/2019 (884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There's no place like home... unless you're the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues, trying to win a playoff game in front of your faithful fans.
Both teams have grabbed a pair of victories in enemy territory, just one of the many examples of how the NHL at this time of year can be so unpredictable. You spend all season fighting for home-ice advantage, only to have it rendered meaningless?
Not so, according to Jets captain Blake Wheeler and several of his teammates.
"Obviously it hasn’t (meant anything) so far in this series, but our fans are going to be going. I want to see them going like I’ve never seen them before, for Game 5," Wheeler said following his team's 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday night in St. Louis that evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
The Jets will look to be the first home team to grab a win as they host the Blues Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., at what should be a pretty pumped-up Bell MTS Place. After all, fans who left the building last Friday night may have been wondering if they'd see the club play live again this season, considering they were down 2-0 in the series.
And now? Well, two impressive triumphs in St. Louis have got them right back into it.
"I think it just goes to show that each game is a new challenge for both teams. Coming here down 2-0 we had to be playing desperate hockey. We did a lot of good things in those first two games, but I thought we elevated our game in the last couple and that’s playoff hockey," said defenceman Josh Morrissey, who believes the roars of the local hockey faithful will provide a boost.
"I think for us, we love playing at home. Our fans really give us a lot of energy."
The Jets flew back from Missouri Wednesday and did not hold a practice or media availability ahead of what is now a best-of-three series, with the pivotal swing game on deck.
"We’ve got to get our minds right. We haven’t won anything yet, That’s a good team over there and they played us right to the last minute," said goalie Connor Hellebuyck. "We know they’re going to come, and we’ve got to be prepared for that."
The bad news is the Jets have lost five straight games in their own barn dating back to the final home stand near the end of March. And they've dropped four straight playoff games at Bell MTS Place, dating back to the Game 2 loss to Vegas in the Western Conference final last year.
Now would be a good time to get the proverbial house in order. Or at least bring some of that road warrior mentality.
"Every game has been a battle. St. Louis has made us work for every inch. We know that’s going to happen in Game 5 again, going back home," said No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele, who scored the tying goal Tuesday and set up Kyle Connor's overtime winner.
"We have to be prepared, have to get our rest and be prepared for another tough battle."
The Jets didn't play poorly in either of the first two games and actually held leads at various points. But they could never turn a one-goal advantage into something more, allowing the Blues to stick around until they eventually caught up and pulled away in the third period, beating them both times by a single goal.
It was a different story in St. Louis, where Winnipeg put together a dominant Game 3 effort to win 6-3, then went toe-to-toe in Tuesday's fever-pitched Game 4, pulling it out in dramatic fashion.
"It's going to be similar to the first four. There's not a lot of room out there," predicted Adam Lowry, who has been a major factor in the series in a checking role with linemates Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp.
Both teams have played exceptionally well. Their goalie's played terrific, our goalie's played terrific. They've had some goals from a bunch of different guys. We've had some guys chip in. Their big line scores one (Tuesday), our big line scores a couple. It's a real close battle."
Lowry was looking forward to playing in front of Winnipeg fans again.
"The Whiteout's awesome. We're excited... we know (the rink) is going to be rocking," he said.
Lowry said momentum swings are big within games, as was the case Tuesday when the Jets really took over in the later stages of the third period and, eventually, overtime. But it's more difficult to keep it going from one game to another.
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"You have to park it. Every game's so important you can't try to carry one from the other. If you have a tough loss you have to leave it there," he said. "And if you have an emotional win you've got to leave it there.
"You can't get by on past merit. It's about doing it every night. We're going to have to continue this style of play to continue to get results."
Yes, home is where the heart is. Now the only question is whether it can be something more for the Jets in the series.
"They're not going away," coach Paul Maurice said of the Blues. "It's best two out of three. Hit the reset button and go back to where you started the series. Hopefully home ice works out for us."
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The Winnipeg Jets get the early slot on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday.
Game 6 of their opening-round series against the Blues is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis and will be broadcast on both CBC and Sportsnet.
The best-of-seven series is now down to a best-of-three with the clubs tied up at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Thursday at Bell MTS Place at 7:30 p.m.
Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little is held in the highest regard by his teammates, who nominated him for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded annually “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community."
Three finalists will be announced Tuesday, and the winner will be revealed at the 2019 NHL Awards June 19 in Las Vegas. A year ago, Brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin became the first duo to win the award in their final NHL campaigns in Vancouver.
Little is in his 12th NHL season, all with the Atlanta Thrashers-Winnipeg Jets franchise.
Off the ice, he has continued the program of meeting and recognizing members of the Canadian Armed Forces at Jets home games, this year called “Little’s Big Heroes.” Little purchased lower-bowl tickets for military members and their families.
He also volunteered his time to Project 11, a True North mental-health awareness and healthy lifestyle program created for kindergarten-to-Grade 8 students in memory of former Jet and Moose player Rick Rypien.