The city of Winnipeg hasn’t been very kind to opposing teams throughout the 2017-18 season. The main reason for that is because the Jets have built an incredibly dynamic roster with players like Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dustin Byfuglien and several others, but that’s not the only reason for the team’s success on home ice.
Going into Bell MTS Place is also challenging because of the crowd. Fans in Winnipeg are loud, passionate, knowledgeable and relentless. When opponents step onto the ice, they’re not only playing a really good hockey team, they’re also going up against 16,000 fans that support their team no matter what.
This season, the Jets lost just seven games in regulation on home ice and two more in overtime/shootouts. That’s nine total defeats in 41 games at Bell MTS Place. Surprise, surprise, no team lost fewer games at home than Winnipeg. Minnesota may have dropped fewer games in regulation (6), but they also lost eight times in overtime/shootouts at home.
The Wild will now have the unenviable task of having to face the Jets at least twice at their home rink during the opening round of the playoffs.
“If I can remember from the last time we were in the playoffs, it was loud in there like something I’ve never experienced before,”Jets forward Mathieu Perreault told PHT prior to his team’s game in Montreal last Tuesday. “It drives us. We love playing at home in front of our fans. We have some of the greatest fans in the league, so I think home ice advantage is going to be key for us.
“The little extra energy boost that you get from (playing at home), it’s hard to explain, really,” added Perreault. “It’s just something you kind of feel when you step on the ice at home with the fans cheering for you. It’s different when you go on the road and the crowd is going for the other team, you can feel that. It’s hard to put words to it, but it’s something you can kind of feel on the inside. It gives you that drive.”
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
The last time the Jets were in the playoffs was in 2014-15. That time, their home crowd couldn’t help prevent them from getting swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round. After all, a home crowd can’t lace up the skates and play for the team they’re cheering for, but there’s a decent chance that things may go differently for Winnipeg this time around. The Jets have a better team with more skill and more youth and they’ll be the favorites heading into Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
Some of the current Jets are so young that they’ve never experienced playoff hockey in Winnipeg. Players like Laine, Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey and Connor Hellebuyck weren’t part of the team that lost to Anaheim in 2014-15, so playoff hockey in their city will be something new to them.
“My opinion is we have the best fans in the league,” Laine told PHT last week. “We don’t have the biggest rink in the league, but the atmosphere is the best in the league, in my opinion. I have no idea what it’s going to be like in the playoffs, but I can just imagine because it’s pretty unreal during the regular season. I think everyone is just excited.”