WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets do not have much time to prepare for the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs which begin Sunday at Canada Life Centre.

The Jets held an optional skate on Friday after their regular season finale in which they won 4-2 over the Vancouver Canucks. Winnipeg has won eight straight games and have held opponents to three goals or less in their last nine contests. They are playing their best hockey at the right time of year.

“I think we’re pretty happy with the strides we’ve made. Obviously, our defensive game has been the strength of our team all year. I feel like we have a confidence in this group. We like the depth of our team,” said Adam Lowry.

“Our five-on-five play, our goaltending, our D-core. I think, looking at what we tried to accomplish coming into training camp to now, we’re satisfied. But now the real work begins. We’re looking forward to the next challenge.”

An obvious statement is this group is in a much better place this year than they were at the same time in 2023.

“I mentioned it the other day, I think we're in far better shape mentally and our team game than we were last year. It was a scramble to get in the playoffs, and it was a scramble in the playoffs. It helped that we got in, clinched that spot a couple weeks ago,” said Rick Bowness.

“But all year long our team has been more committed to that team game, day in and day out. And when things didn't go our way, which happened, we had a couple of losing streaks which is going to happen to everybody, they worked hard to fight their way out of it. So right now, the team mentally is in really good shape. We're confident in our team game.”

That team game will be put to the test with the Avalanche who have one of the front runners for the Hart Trophy in Nathan MacKinnon, a Norris Trophy winner in Cale Makar and a five-time 30 goal scorer in Mikko Rantanen.

“They've got some great players over there and they won a championship, they've been there. So, I know we've got a couple of guys in the room LB (Laurent Brossoit) and Toff (Tyler Toffoli) who have won Stanley Cups, but the other guys haven't,” said Bowness.

“So, they have a little bit of advantage with that, they have won a Cup, and they know what it takes to get there. And we're gonna keep pushing here and we're gonna kind of learn as we go along, I guess.”

Part of Bowness’ message to his team will be to respect the Avalanche elite players but not too much.

“It's the first to four wins. And at the same time, it's understanding and respecting their strengths and knowing what our strengths are and trying to put forth what we do well and be aggressive in our game while understanding, again, what their bread and butter is,” said Josh Morrissey.

“That's the task we have to overcome and figure out. For our group, it's just going back to our team game and our structure that's gotten us to this point and given us a chance to be in the playoffs. We have to respect them, of course, but be aggressive in our game."

The Jets rested the likes of Morrissey, Lowry, Mark Scheifele, Vladislav Namestnikov and Brenden Dillon on Thursday night. So, the team will be rested and ready to go for Sunday’s series opener. They will go into Sunday without the services of Morgan Barron who remains out with a lower-body injury. Bowness said that he knows who will be replacing Barron on the fourth line, but he wasn’t revealing that to the media today.

“It’s been made (the decision),” said Bowness.

“Yeah, depends on roles and where, we got to look and see their lineup, we'll look at our lineup again.”