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Why the Jets will win the Stanley Cup

by David Satriano /

The Winnipeg Jets qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild card team from the Western Conference, but that won't stop them from making noise in the coming weeks and months.

The city of Winnipeg hasn't seen a playoff team in 19 years, since 1995-96 when the original Winnipeg Jets lost in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, so you can expect the fans to provide a huge boost. The MTS Centre is already regarded as one of the more intimidating buildings in the NHL. The Jets should be able to feed off the crowd and take care of business at home, where they were 23-13-5 during the regular season.

"For all those people back home, it's a great night for them," coach Paul Maurice said after the Jets made the playoffs. "And they're going to get to see some really exciting hockey."

The top line of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler has been one of the most productive in the League with 175 points this season. Each member scored 20 goals. The three combined for 20 power-play goals and five shorthanded goals, and are capable of playing in all situations.

The Jets have four other players who scored at least 15 goals; forwards Michael Frolik (19), Mathieu Perreault (18), Mark Scheifele (15) and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (18). That kind of balance makes the Jets a very dangerous team.

Every postseason has a goalie who seemingly comes out of nowhere to play great at the right time, going on a deep run. Ondrej Pavelec could be this postseason's version of Jonathan Quick. Pavelec, who has been with the franchise since he was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005, set career marks in goals-against average and save percentage. He's struggled at times, but with a playoff berth on the line he had three shutouts, all on the road, during his final three starts of the season.

If Pavelec struggles, backup Michael Hutchinson (21-10-5, two shutouts) has proven his worth.

Aside from offense, Byfuglien adds physical play and helps to shut down top lines; he won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

All of these reasons, combined with the fact that coach Paul Maurice is 61-38-18 since taking over last season, will lead to hockey in Winnipeg in June and a Stanley Cup championship.

"We're a playoff team and you see it every year," Wheeler said. "We've got as good a chance as anyone, so we're excited."


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