A little more than 24 hours after from capturing a 3-2 victory in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Qualifying series against the Calgary Flames and avenging a disastrous Game 1 loss in the process, the teams were right back at it at in Edmonton for the all-important Game 3.
For the first time in the five-game series, the Jets were the “home team,” donning their blue jerseys, warming up to their own music mix, hearing ‘O Canada’ sung by Winnipeg’s own Stacy Nattrass complete with a “True North!” shoutout, and getting last change.
Despite experiencing the comforts of home, things weren’t sweet at all for the Jets as they were defeated 6-2 and are on the brink of elimination. Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1: Ehlers Was Electric
Perhaps feeling lighter from finally getting the “no playoff goals” monkey off his back by scoring the Game 2 game-winner, Nikolaj Ehlers burned up the ice in Game 3.
Skating on the second line with Cody Eakin, the Dane oozed confidence as he and came out firing and opened the scoring off a beautiful stretch pass from Dmitry Kulikov. Overall, he fired six shots on Cam Talbot and looked consistently dangerous in 17:24 of ice time.
If the Jets want to force a Game 5, an engaged “Fly” will be paramount given the injuries to Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine.
2: Jets Need to Get Disciplined, Fast
The other teams playing at Rogers Place are going to be complaining about ruts the Jets are cutting to the penalty box.
The Jets took four minors Tuesday night and allowed three power play goals. They were pegged for six infractions in Game 2, but managed to kill them all off, and allowed two power play goals in Game 1. They have taken 14 minors in just three games.
It’s unusual for a team that was the ninth-least penalized in the regular season to suddenly be bad boys; it’s not a good look. While one could say a few of the calls in Game 1 were the result of overzealous officiating, the Jets earned all of their Game 3 minors with exception of a marginal slashing call to Josh Morrissey in the second.
The Jets’ penalty kill struggled for most of the season and is simply not good enough to depend on. If they want to stay in the Stanley Cup chase, they’ll need to stay out of the box.
3: Jets’ Second-Period Play Is Cause for Grave Concern
Once again, the Jets started strong and scored the first goal, but once again, the Flames absolutely dominated the middle frame, generating dangerous chance after dangerous chance and scoring three goals (and one that was disallowed due to goaltender interference.)
It’s the third straight game in which the Jets eased off and were vastly outplayed in the middle frame. They’ve been outscored 8-2 in second periods overall.
Quite simply, the reason the Flames are up in the series is that the Jets have taken a whole period off each game. Playoff contests aren’t won by playing less than 60 minutes, that’s for sure.
4: Jets Can’t Catch a Break When It Comes to Injuries
With Scheifele, Laine, and Mason Appleton already out, the Jets didn’t need to add any more members to the list of walking wounded.
In Game 3, injuries continued to abound, with Tucker Poolman taking a Mikael Backlund shot square to the face in the second and leaving a robust trail of blood behind him as he was hustled off the ice in addition to a crimson pool near the front of the net. Luckily, the d-man was able to return for the third wearing a cage and later a clear face shield.
One player who was injured and did not return was Mathieu Perreault, who took a hit from behind from Sam Bennett while he was in a vulnerable position and went straight down the tunnel with an apparent leg injury. There was no penalty assessed on the play. Perreault took a few laps before the opening faceoff in the third, but it was quickly apparent he wasn’t fit to play.
The line shuffling head coach Paul Maurice has been forced to do out of necessity has led to a lack of chemistry between forward units. That’s obviously not ideal in such a short series.
The Jets have been excellent at overcoming adversity this season, but even they might not be able to rise above this circumstance.
Do-Or-Die Game 4 Comes Thursday
The Jets and Flames will play the late game Thursday, with a 9:30 p.m. Central/8:30 p.m. Mountain opening face off.
If the Jets lose, they’ll be out of Cup contention but in contention for the first-overall pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. A placeholder team won last month’s Draft Lottery which means the squads eliminated in the Qualifiers will all have a 12.5 per cent chance at winning the chance to take consensus number-one Alexis Lafreniere.
If they win, the teams will play a deciding Game 5 on Saturday, time TBA.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.