It’s Winnipeg Jets Day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Winnipeg Jets.

Ahh, the Jets.

It’s been three seasons since they’ve moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg and each of them has ended without a playoff appearance. As the lack of success rolls on, the frustration with the organization is growing in Manitoba. After all, the excitement of having the NHL return to the city has calmed down but the team is treading water.

Their first season in the Western Conference saw the Jets finish with 84 points going 37-35-10 and finishing last in the Central Division and 11th in the West. Their disappointing play cost Claude Noel his job as head coach after going 19-23-5 under him and resulted in Paul Maurice taking over and doing  a bit better going 18-12-5. Of course, it wasn’t all hunky-dory for Maurice either.

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had solid seasons leading the team in scoring, but Maurice had his issues with star forward Evander Kane and kept former defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at forward, a move Noel made in an effort to keep his job.

Despite changing positions, Byfuglien still had 20 goals and 56 points. Kane slumped all season though and finished with 19 goals and 41 points. Captain Andrew Ladd was a bright spot as well with 23 goals and 54 points. Mark Scheifele did well in his first full season in the NHL with 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games. Olli Jokinen had a solid season, but will play in Nashville next season.

While the offense was encouraging, goaltending was a major sore spot.

Ondrej Pavelec struggled all season and finished with a .901 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.01. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already declared him his No. 1 goalie next season and he could benefit next season from a defensive corps that gains another year together and has a lot of upside.

Rookie Jacob Trouba had an impressive first season in Winnipeg even in spite of suffering a scary injury. If Zach Bogosian can avoid the injury bug, those two along with Tobias Enstrom can team up with Mark Stuart and a hopefully recovered from back surgery Grant Clitsome to make up a solid group on the blue line.

If they keep it together, it’ll put the onus on Pavelec to play to the best of his ability – something he’s struggled to do in Winnipeg after having success in Atlanta.

Offseason recap

While the rest of the Central Division underwent an arms race to commence beating each other’s heads in all season, the Jets essentially stayed out of the fray.

They replaced Olli Jokinen with Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks, re-signed Michael Frolik to avoid arbitration, and added T.J. Galiardi. They also re-signed Chris Thorburn to a three-year, $3.6 million contract which was… odd.

The Jets also parted ways with Al Montoya (who signed with Florida) and will go with Michael Hutchinson as the backup goalie to/guy to potentially unseat Pavelec.

The highlight of the Jets’ summer may have come at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia when they selected Halifax winger Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth overall pick.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.