WINNIPEG - Paul Maurice may have summed up the anticipation around the Winnipeg Jets dressing room on the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the best.
"The regular season was fine, it's just not a whole lot of fun," said Maurice. "This is when it's fun."
One day before the fun begins, the Jets skated at Bell MTS Iceplex for 30 minutes preparing for the St. Louis Blues.
Last spring's postseason run to the Western Conference Final may not have ended the way the Jets would have liked, but it undoubtedly provided valuable experience the team can lean on this spring.
Dating back to the First Round exit against the Anaheim Ducks in 2015, a number of the Jets veterans during the 2018 run only had those four games of playoff experience.
"We have an interesting group that comes back. We're younger than we were last year, but we go into the playoffs a more experienced group," said Maurice. "You have to experience it. The level of hockey that is played in the playoffs is so much different than the regular season."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
The Jets forward lines remained the same up front as they did to finish the regular season. The only difference on defence was Josh Morrissey was back in a familiar spot alongside Jacob Trouba.
Winnipeg's offence is spread out through the forward lines, with 10 of those 12 forwards finishing with double-digits in the goal column this season.
Nikolaj Ehlers is one of those, finishing the regular season with 21 - including one in each of the final two games.
He was kept out of the goal column during last year's postseason (though the forward did have seven assists) but wants to improve on that this time around.
"It sucks when you don't score. You want to score, you want to help the team," said Ehlers.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself and my game. Not so much about producing but playing the right way. I feel my game has gotten a lot better from the beginning of when I came back from my injury. I have to keep that going and take it another step, because I know that's what the guys in here are going to do."
Video: PRACTICE | Nikolaj Ehlers
Maurice has put Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault on the same line on a couple of occasions this season and likes what each brings out in the other's game.
"Matty Perreault brings a certain energy to the game and Nik feeds off that. There is a lot of speed that goes into it," said Maurice. "With Kevin (Hayes in the middle), he can move the puck and make plays, but having some speed to play with is good for him. It helps his game. We like the line."
Every series tends to have a standout performer, like Mark Scheifele's seven goals and 11 points in the seven-game series against the Nashville Predators last May.
Scheifele set a record for goals on the road that postseason (11) and feels his line with Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler is hitting its stride just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"That pressure only forces you to want to do bigger and better things. That's my focus. I take that as motivation," said Scheifele. "There are always things I can work on and get better at. The same goes for the entire team. It's not like the growing stops now, we have to continue to grow as a team and build as a team every game. That's my focus and that's my team's focus."
Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele
After all, the postseason requires the trio to play a different game than what made them successful in the early months of the regular season.
"You could see it in the last three games. Their game changed," said Maurice.
"They had a lot of success in November and December snapping that puck, five-seam passes, really pretty hockey. It worked for them. Then the game changes and they're starting to gear up for playoff hockey.
"You can start to see straight lines, net drives, and that's what they're really good at."
All the talk ends tomorrow as game one gets underway at 7 pm CT, and after waiting all season, Maurice can't wait for the fun to begin.
"Momentum changes every time the puck drops - and you have an opportunity to get it going," said Maurice.
"The building is going to be awesome... It's going to be exciting."