There is no doubt that the third-place Winnipeg Jets have a daunting task ahead of themselves in their first round postseason matchup with the second-place Edmonton Oilers.
Jack Michaels – the play-by-play voice of the Edmonton Oilers – made that point, and then some with the following Tweet:
A reminder: all five of Edmonton’s Stanley Cups included a playoff series win over Winnipeg along the way. The Oilers won their first 16 postseason games against the Jets and are 22-4 all-time…
— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) May 12, 2021
Winnipeg began the 2020-21 season by collecting wins in two of its first three matchups with Edmonton. In dropping the first game of the season, but taking wins in the next two, the Jets seemingly got off to a good start against a team featuring the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
However, that all came crashing down in a Walls of Jericho style disassembly. From February 17 onward, the Jets played the Oilers six times, losing every game in regulation and being outscored 21-7 in the process.
Now set to face off against the Oil in an opening round, best-of-seven series, Winnipeg is looking for its second wind come playoff time. And it will have to keep the momentum going in a Friday night battle with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
#NHLJets First Round Playoff Schedule:
WPG @ EDM – Wednesday, May 19 – 7:00 PM
WPG @ EDM – Friday, May 21 – 7:00 PM
EDM @ WPG – Sunday, May 23 – TBA
EDM @ WPG – Monday, May 24 – TBA
WPG @ EDM – Wednesday, May 26 – TBA
EDM @ WPG – Friday, May 28 TBA
WPG @ EDM – Sunday, May 30 TBA
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) May 13, 2021
“We would like to finish the year on a good note and string together a couple wins, feeling good at home before we head to Edmonton,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said on Thursday afternoon. “It would be nice to end the season with a win, for sure. I think it’s just about cementing the things we’ve been working on and try and reinforce some of those good habits and good ideas that we have been getting better at over the course of the year, so we can hit the ground running when we get to Edmonton.”
Lowry, who returned to the Jets’ lineup last week following a short stint on the injured reserve, knows that he will be facing another dynamic duo in advance of Winnipeg’s series against McDavid and Draisaitl. Although explosive players in their own right, Lowry says Matthews and Marner do not run identical offences to the Oilers’ duo.
“I think the matchup styles are a little different,” he pondered. “McDavid is kind of in a league of his own right now just the way that he’s playing. But when you look at Matthews and Marner, they are so dynamic. But they go about it a different way… It’s one of those things where you kind of have to go about your job a little differently, depending on who it is you’re trying to shut down or try to eliminate their scoring chances. But it’s always a tough test whether you go up against those two or Draisaitl and McDavid, it’s just a different approach. But it would be good to go out there against those guys and play them hard and feel good going into the Edmonton series.”
Much like the Jets, the Toronto is also closing out its season on Friday, in what many may think of as a pointless game, standings-wise. According to Jets’ defenceman Josh Morrissey, there still is much left to play for.
“For both teams, it’s about trying to get your game tuned up for the next one, which is obviously when it really matters,” Morrissey said. “I mean, of course, they are gonna win the division here and have been basically at the top of division all year. Of course you want to play well against them; you need to be ready to go and stuff like that. But I think our focus is on ourselves and trying to get our game…it’s one last tune up, really, for the playoffs and we’re going to try to bring a game that we can use against Edmonton and so that’s where our heads are at.”
With a focus on Friday and the Leafs, Morrissey admitted that the team hasn’t even started going over game film from the Edmonton season series at this point, despite the playoffs beginning for the two teams in just six days.
“To be honest with you, we haven’t started reviewing our upcoming matchup with the Oilers,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll go back and look at what we did well in those games and what got away from us in the games that we didn’t have any success. But, quite frankly, it does seem like that was, although it is a shorter season, a long time ago and I’m sure we will watch those games where he had success and see what we did well… We’ll review the upcoming series I believe starting on Saturday and get ready for the Oilers then.”
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But for now, the attention remains on a game between two playoff-bound teams. Although nothing new for anyone involved, Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice believes that there won’t be anything too out of the ordinary in terms of on-ice altercations Friday.
“There is almost a – this is going to sound terrible for hockey – gentleman’s agreement,” he chuckled. “I don’t think you’re going to see any late hits. Both teams are getting ready. There will be a certain amount of respect on the ice. Play hard, play fast, then if it happens that something gets away – a hit that’s not liked – it can get real ugly, real quick. But I don’t expect that tomorrow. You want to get out, you want to get a good feeling, it’s the last game before we get going. It won’t have the same animosity because there’s nothing really on the line for anybody, other than both teams trying to get that good feeling.”
But the most important part for Coach Mo: the health and safety of his players involved.
“This one, there’s nothing really on the line,” Maurice said. “The difference between our sport is that it’s a full contact sport played very fast. Emotion is a critical piece to our game. Both coaches want the same thing. You want your team to play well and you’ve got your fingers crossed nobody gets hurt. You can sit a guy out in a game and he can get hurt in a practice. That’s the thing you’re fearing. All these guys want to play these games. They want that good feeling. Let’s get through it, get healthy, and get moving forward.”