Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Jets reach conference final for first time in franchise history with Game 7 win at Predators

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SportsPulse: The Vegas Golden Knights were never supposed to be here in the first place, but now their shot at a title is becoming more realistic than ever. Our NHL insider Kevin Allen on how this team has done the unthinkable.
USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets have advanced to the Western Conference final for the first time in the franchise’s 18-season history.

The Jets chased Pekka Rinne with two ugly goals in the first period and downed the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators 5-1 in Game 7 of their second-round series.

The Jets, with a penchant for scoring goals in bunches, may be the scariest offensive team remaining in the playoffs.

Here is why the Jets are so dangerous:

Formidable top line: Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are dominant most nights. Scheifele is a bullish scoring center, and the speedy Wheeler is a highly skilled play-making winger. Connor, a rookie, has magic in his hands.

Patrik Laine is another Ovechkin: Laine has one of the NHL’s quickest releases. Goalies watch the second-year player set up for the one-timer, but they can’t stop it. He has impressive accuracy for a player who shoots the puck as hard as he does.

Big Buff can bring it: Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien’s shot from the point has been clocked at 101 mph, helping him blast a puck through traffic.

Underrated defensive corps: Nobody talks much about the offensive skill on the Jets’ defensive group, but their blue line has registered 10 goals in Winnipeg’s 12 games.

Plenty of offensive depth: Paul Stastny centers the second line and he has 14 points in 12 games — including a three-point night in Game 7. Brandon Tanev, a role player, has four goals. This Winnipeg group is so scary offensively that it is on an amazing pace even though Nikolaj Ehlers, who had 29 goals in the regular season, hasn’t found the net yet in the playoffs.

Explosive tendencies: As the Nashville Predators have learned, the Jets can turn a tight game into a one-sided game in minutes. In Game 3, the Jets were trailing 3-0 in the first period and won 7-4. Every time they score, they grow stronger.

Puck ownership: The Jets can retrieve the puck and hang onto it. They have ranked among the top possession teams in the regular season and playoffs. 

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