DARE TO BELIEVE!!
© Chuck Duboff
The excitement is building in the city of Winnipeg; there is a sense that something very special will be happening in the coming months. Winnipeg Jets fans keep reading articles from national and international media about the Jets being the envy of all teams in the league: http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/22745770/nhl-why-winnipeg-jets-envy-30-other-teams, Jets fans watched their team toy with the Chicago Black Hawks on Thursday night, despite still having several star players on the injured list. There’s a palpable excitement as fans say: “this team is for real” “if healthy, this team could go all the way.” You hold your breath and say to yourself…this might be possible!!
Earlier in the season, when the Jets had their A lineup, they were rolling through teams; then injuries occurred and mounted, but still the Jets kept on winning. Conner Hellebucyk was outstanding; Blake Wheeler carried the team with his leadership; Patrik Laine was on fire, scoring seemingly at will. Meanwhile, the depth players who were filling in for the injured, did an admirable job keeping the team competitive. Add to that, Jets GM Kevin Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled off to two trades at the deadline, acquiring star centre Paul Stastny and solid d-man Joe Morrow
It’s March 17th today and the Jets have a solid lock on second place in the Central Division with a record of 42-19-10 and only eleven games left to play in the regular season. Once second place is secured, I would expect Coach Maurice to give players like Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, Conner Hellebucyk and Josh Morrissey a few games off to get rested for the first round of the playoffs.
If everybody is healthy and the Jets can put out a lineup like the one which follows, I cannot see this team losing 4 out of 7 games to anyone:
Conner, Scheifele and Wheeler
Ehlers, Stastny and Laine
Perrault, Little and Roslovic
Copp, Lowry and Armia
Morrissey and Trouba
Byfuglien and Enstrom
Myers and Chairot
The Black Knights: Tanev, Mathias, Dano, Morrow, Poolman
I would suggest that if we can ice this lineup for the playoffs, we will take care of the Wild in 6…and then the most exciting series of the playoffs will occur, with the Jets facing the Nashville Predators in the second round. I believe that our top three lines match up great against the Preds top three lines and our fourth line will be a smothering nuisance for Nashville. I could see this series going seven electrifying games with the Jets coming out on top.
As of today, the Jets still have Scheifele and Lowry injured, but it looks like they will be back as early as Sunday night. Matt Hendricks, out for two months, will be missed, but you know he’ll be like an extra coach in the locker room, firing guys up. Dmitri Kulakov sounds like a serious injury…if he can return during the playoffs, that will give us more depth. Right now, Eric Comrie is our back up goalie. He has proven himself at the AHL level, but now he needs to be ready in case he is called upon…in all likelihood he will get a couple of starts before the playoffs. With both Steve Mason and Michael Hutchinson suffering two concussions this season, I don’t think we can count on either for the playoffs.
This team can shoot the lights out with its offensive talent: Scheifele, Wheeler, Conner, Stastny, Laine, Ehlers, Roslovic, Perrault and Little…the defence just needs to play smart hockey and if Bucky gives us the great goaltending that he is capable of, I CANNOT see this team losing 4 out of 7 to anybody. In fact, once we get past Nashville in the second round, I think the path gets even easier.
DARE TO BELIEVE!!!