AT THE MORNING SKATE
WINNIPEG – There it was, written in big, bold letters at the head of the dressing room – an all-too-true reminder, of sorts, as the Winnipeg Jets look to stave off elimination in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
‘Why not us?’
‘We stick together as a team!’
Exactly. Why not?
The Jets may trail the best-of-seven series 3-0, but their confidence – ultimately drawn from a year’s worth of tackling hardship – isn’t shaken.
“In a tough spot, you have to focus on the day today and on the things that we can do well,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.
“We have the opportunity to do that tonight. Be excited about it.”
Excitement, there’s plenty. Another full house of 15,016 snow-covered supporters will do the bulk of the heavy lifting in that regard. If Game 3 was any indication, world-class theatre, both on the ice and off, will once again be on display at MTS Centre.
“The energy level in this building on the ice and on the bench was fantastic. We want it again,” Maurice said. “I’m more interested in making sure we get back to that level of excitement than I am about trying to dampen that down. This is an opportunity. We’ve got some challenges with our schedule and our location because of flights but what we don’t have is a quiet building. And we’ve got to make the most of that.
“We want to get this crowd as jacked up as possible and then play a good, smart hockey game using all that energy we can get from our fans. It’s an advantage for us.
“We’ve got to love every minute of this because it doesn’t get any better until it does. … I want those players walking out onto the ice thinking ‘This is a good day to be a hockey player in Winnipeg.’”
The Jets have seen a steady improvement throughout the series but are still looking to close one out. They’ve had a third-period lead in all three games, only to see them evaporate, giving the Ducks the distinction of becoming the first team in National Hockey League history to win three straight playoff games when trailing at some point in the third period.
“They’re good at what they do,” Bryan Little said, offering his take on the Ducks’ uncanny ability to rally in the dying minutes. “I think it’s a mix of them being a good hockey team and maybe us getting a little tight at the end of games.”
Drew Stafford agreed, adding that the Jets need to “relax a little bit,” play in the moment and believe in each other.
“We’re thinking too much and when you overanalyze, you overthink out there. Your body loses control, you stand still, stop skating... I think that’s one thing we have to focus on tonight, making sure that belief is there with each other. We know how to win games. We know how to hold onto leads. We’ve done it before.
“There’s no quit in here no matter what the circumstance. We know our backs are against the wall here, but it has been done before. It is possible.”
It sure has.
Four other teams in the NHL history (the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, 1975 New York Islanders and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs) have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series.
So why not the Jets?
‘Why not us?’
Andrew Ladd, Mathieu Perreault, Tyler Myers and Adam Pardy did not take part in the morning skate. Ladd, Perreault and Myers will play tonight, but Maurice would not confirm if Pardy or Ben Chiarot would be in on defence.
In goal, Ondrej Pavelec will once again go head-to-head with Frederik Andersen.
Pavelec has a 3.61 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage so far this series.
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com