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Jets' road work helps pave way to conference final

Performance of Hellebuyck, first line pivotal in ousting Predators

by Scott Billeck / Correspondent

The Winnipeg Jets will play in the Western Conference Final for the first time. 

The Jets won 5-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Nashville Predators on Thursday and will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the conference final, which begins with Game 1 at Winnipeg on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).


[RELATED: Jets add to franchise milestones with Game 7 victory | Complete Predators vs. Jets series coverage]


Winnipeg won their first Stanley Cup Playoff game and series in the first round, when they eliminated the Minnesota Wild in five games.

Here are 5 reasons the Jets advanced to the conference final:


1. Road thrill

The Jets won three of the four games at Nashville, including Game 7, and tied an NHL record for most goals on the road in a playoff series with 19.

"The telling stat for me in this series is we played four games in here and never lost in regulation," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "Against the best team in the League, that's what you worry about with a young team."


2. Hellebuyck huge

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck entered the regular season as the backup but won the No. 1 role early. 

A Vezina Trophy nominee, Hellebuyck had a 2.44 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in the series.

"It's a long journey," the 24-year-old said. "It's a lot of hours, a lot of working hard. The chemistry in this locker room is just incredible. Everyone's fighting for each other every single night, and the details are just phenomenal.

"That's my job every single night. We get up early, and then I go to work. But the guys in front of me are keeping it easy for me. It makes the world of difference."

Video: Las Vegas #AwardWorthy: Hellebuyck dominant in Game 7


3. Top line dominant 

Winnipeg's No. 1 line of Mark Scheifele, who had 11 points (seven goals, four assists); Blake Wheeler, who had 11 (two goals, nine assists); and Kyle Connor, who had six (two goals, four assists), combined for 28 points 11 goals, 17 assists).

Scheifele scored his seven goals on the road, setting an NHL record for a playoff series. He leads the playoffs with 11 goals and is tied for fifth with 16 points.

Video: WPG@NSH, Gm7: Scheifele nets one-timer past Saros


4. Mr. Game 7

The Jets can point to Thursday as the reason they acquired forward Paul Stastny in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 26. He had two goals and an assist in the deciding game against Nashville to give him eight points (four goals, four assists) in four Game 7s in the NHL.

"I'm comfortable in these games," said the 32-year-old, who is 3-1 in Game 7 . "I'd rather have it on my stick because maybe some of the guys who are younger in this situation just get a little nervous."

Video: The guys discuss Paul Stastny's career Game 7 stats


5. Secondary scoring

The Jets also found production outside from their first line. Stastny, the second-line center, had 10 points (five goals, five assists). His line with right wing Patrik Laine (one goal, five assists) and left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (four assists) combined for 20 points in the series. 

Third-line left wing Brandon Tanev had five points (three goals, two assists). Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien had eight points (four goals, four assists).


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