Monday, May 7, 2018

Weekend wrap: One win away

They say the fourth win is the hardest one to get. The Jets are about to find out how true that can be.

After going into Nashville on Saturday and playing their best game of the series on the way to a 6–2 win, the Jets are back home with a chance to wrap up the series tonight. They’ve got home ice. They’ve got the momentum. They’ve got three lines clicking. And with Pekka Rinne getting yanked for the second time in the series, they’ve got the goaltending edge.

Add it all up, and the Jets look like they’re going to do this. Their path to the conference final is clear, and it’s short. One more win.

But it won’t be that easy because it’s never that easy. The Predators didn’t get to the top of the NHL standings without winning a few tough road games along the way. They’ve bounced back from losses before, including twice in this series. And for whatever it’s worth, P.K. Subban doesn’t sound worried.

The stakes are hard to overstate here; this will be the biggest game in Winnipeg’s NHL history, and it’s not all that close. If the Jets can finish the job, they’d emerge with home-ice advantage for the rest of the playoffs and clear Cup favorite status. They’d be facing an expansion team in round three. And they’d have buried the ghosts of nearly four decades of always being second-best, whether it was to the Oilers or the Flames or the financial realities or whatever else was keeping them stuck in supporting-character status. This year has been a statement; tonight can be the exclamation point.

It’s all right there for the taking. But it’s still one game away. And that one game, we’re constantly told, is the toughest one of them all.

Two other teams had the chance to wrap up their series yesterday, and both got it done. The Lightning became the first team through to round three with an afternoon win over the Bruins. That made it four straight wins for Tampa after dropping game one, as it became increasingly clear that the Lightning were the better team.

The Bruins certainly had their share of bad luck, including a handful of questionable calls and a growing injury list. But they were badly outclassed at 5-on-5, especially when their top line wasn’t on the ice. After some mid-season question marks, we can move safely move the Lightning back to the top of our Cup-contenders list.

The Golden Knights booked their own trip to the conference final last night, knocking out the Sharks with a 3–0 win in San Jose. The win followed the Knights’ blueprint: spectacular goaltending, some highlight-reel offence, at least one weird moment (in this case a Horn of Doom goal), and a bunch of experts trying to figure out what just happened.

That Knights’ win also gives the Jets even more reason to end things tonight; with a potential Game 7 not coming until Thursday, they don’t want to go the distance while giving Vegas nearly a full week’s worth of rest before the next round.

But that’s looking ahead. For now, all eyes are on Winnipeg. The Predators are a good team, and they’ve already called their shot about this not being over. It’s up to the Jets to prove them wrong, and earn a fourth win that would also stand as the biggest in franchise history.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards a Stanley Cup.

5. Nashville Predators: Expect some adjustments from the Preds tonight; Peter Laviolette has never been afraid to mix things up as a series goes on.

4. Washington Capitals: Up 3-2 over Pittsburgh… what could go wrong? No really, I’m asking. Because it doesn’t feel like anything is off the table tonight.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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