Looking back at 2018, the Winnipeg Jets and their fans had a lot to cheer about. The franchise really turned a corner and had more success than any previous NHL team out of the city and continue to build towards the ultimate reward.
From a long playoff run, to a wide variety of impressive individual accomplishments and stellar highlights, here’s a rundown of some of the best Jets moments of 2018.
18. The debut of the third jersey
Like it? Love it? Hate it? When the Jets launched their new third jersey look this season, the stylized version faced a ton of criticism.
17. Patrik Laine‘s 18 goals in one month
In November, Laine became the first player since Pavel Bure in 1994, and just the 10th all-time, to score at least 18 goals in a calendar month. The record for most goals in a month is shared by Teemu Selanne, who did it with the Jets in March of 1993, and Joe Malone of the 1921 Hamilton Tigers — both of whom scored 20.
16. Brandon Tanev‘s hat-trick magic
On March 27 against the Boston Bruins, Brandon Tanev scored his first career hat trick. That in itself is an amazing accomplishment for a player who entered the season with a career high of two goals in a full season, but the context here takes it to another level.
His line was tasked to shadow Boston’s top line in a shutdown role. They surely weren’t expected to score as the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio was having an incredible season in which they had allowed only nine goals against at 5-on-5 all season. It was against that backdrop that Tanev dropped two on them — adding another one against a different line — to personally account for 18 per cent of the 5-on-5 goals against one of the league’s top lines.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) March 28, 2018
15. The Finland trip
As part of the NHL’s Global Series, the Jets travelled to Finland for two games against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 1 and 2, with each team getting a 4-2 win. Through the first month of the season Laine had just three goals and his “struggles” were in focus, but he scored a hat trick in the first game and added another marker in the second. A little home cooking goes a long way.
14. The rivalry continues: Predators-Jets line brawl
In their first meeting of the 2018-19 season, the two Central Division heavyweights treated fans with some old-time hockey. After a pretty quiet first period that featured zero goals and four penalty minutes, a questionable hit by Miikka Salomaki on Nikolaj Ehlers set off a line brawl that finished with 22 penalty minutes being handed out.
Four more penalties were issued before the period was out, including a Tyler Myers misconduct for mocking the referee. Eight more penalty minutes and two more misconducts were dished out in the third period, and although Winnipeg lost the game 3-0, it was a reminder about the level of hate between the two.
13. Connor Hellebuyck’s huge save in Game 4 versus the Wild
After winning the first two games of their opening-round series, the Jets fell 6-2 to Minnesota on the road in Game 3 and were facing the prospect of heading home tied 2-2. But Hellebuyck was stellar, turning aside 30 shots for a 2-0 win, but one stop in particular stands out as a turning point.
Just 39 seconds into the second period the Jets allowed a 3-on-1 rush that finished with a glorious chance for Mathew Dumba. Had he scored, the game would have been tied at one and who knows how that would have altered the outcome. But Hellebuyck slid across, flashed some leather and made an incredible save.
12. Laine’s 15-game point streak
Goal scorers are inherently streaky, this we know, but Laine’s run of success from Feb. 16 to March 18 was nothing to shake a Bauer stick at. His 15-game point streak, which included 18 goals and eight assists, was the longest run by a teenager in NHL history. He broke the previous record of 13 games, set by Nathan MacKinnon.
11. Dustin Byfuglien bullies the Golden Knights
You’ll remember this. Western Conference final. Emotions heating up. A melee is breaking out in front of Vegas’s net and a pile of players falls on Jets star Mark Scheifele. Before it can escalate any further, ‘Big Buff’ grabs a couple of Golden Knights by the scruff of their necks and pulls them off the pile, one in each hand. An amazing display of his brute strength.
10. 44 wins sets new record for franchise
On March 20, with still a few weeks left in the regular season, the Jets earned their 44th win with a 2–1 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings led by Kyle Connor‘s two goals. This set a new franchise record, eclipsing the 43 they got in 2014–15 and 1984–85. The win moved the Jets to 44-19-10 and they won eight of their last nine games to finish with 52 wins on the season.
9. Hellebuyck named a Vezina Trophy finalist
Tying for the league lead with 44 wins, finishing third in shutouts (6), eighth in GAA (2.36) and 10th in save percentage (.924), Hellebuyck was the first Thrashers/Jets goalie to be named a finalist for the Vezina in April. A few weeks after the award show, the 24-year-old signed a six-year, $37-million extension.
8. Hellebuyck sets all-time wins record for American goalies
In an era without ties, wins are easier to come by than they used to be, but it’s no simple thing to set a record in this category with parity ruling the modern game. But with a 30-save effort in his 64th, and final, start of the 2017–18 regular season, Hellebuyck earned his 44th win with a 4-1 win over Chicago. That win eclipsed Tom Barrasso’s previous record of 43 wins in a single season by an American-born goalie.
7. Scheifele’s historic goal total
The Jets’ top centre destroyed the competition through the playoffs. Had Winnipeg lasted until the Stanley Cup final he may have taken a run at the all-time record of 19 goals in one post-season, but ultimately fell five short of that mark.
He did walk away with a record, though. In the Nashville series, Scheifele scored seven times on the road — two goals in both Games 1 and 2, one goal in Game 5, and another two in Game 7. That surpassed the previous high of six reached by a number of players over the years.
6. The White Out returns, this time featuring Scott Oake
Whenever the Jets are in the playoffs you can look forward to the white out and one of the best — if not the best — crowds in the game. This time, Winnipeg resident Scott Oake was on the scene covering the series, and we won’t soon forget the scene outside MTS Centre when the After Hours host was in the middle of it all.
5. First series win since 1987
Matching up against the Minnesota Wild in Round 1, not many were picking an upset. But when Winnipeg scored five goals in the first period of Game 5 and coasted to a 5–0 win to clinch the series, it was their first Stanley Cup Playoffs series win since 1987. Party on, Winnipeg.
4. The Paul Stastny trade
Whenever the NHL trade deadline would swing around, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had become a punch line of sorts for his long track record of standing pat. But with the Jets clearly evolving into Stanley Cup contenders last season, the GM finally struck.
After being linked to Derick Brassard for weeks, only to see him get traded to Pittsburgh in the lead-up to the deadline, it looked like the Jets had no other legitimate targets at centre. But as the clock ticked down, the St. Louis Blues slipped into seller mode and shipped Stastny to Winnipeg for a first-round pick and Erik Foley. His addition changed the complexion of the team and allowed them to move Bryan Little to the third line, the kind of depth down the middle most teams dream about. Stastny was a key cog in their playoff run, and even scored in his very first game.
3. Blake Wheeler signs five-year, $41.25-million contract extension
Given all the big markets and sunny climates NHL players have to choose from these days, Winnipeg will always be hard-pressed to be seen as a “destination” for the biggest names. Whether that means acquiring someone through free agency, or landing a player via trade and hoping he re-signs, the pull isn’t there for everyone, so the draft will always have to be a focus for this team.
That’s why the captain’s decision to sign a five-year extension was such a big deal. He was still a year away from becoming a UFA, but Wheeler was coming off a 91-point season in 2017-18 and was being recognized as one of the best power forwards in the game. Had he chosen to go to market, he could have signed almost anywhere.
“I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” he said at the time.
2. Laine’s five-goal game
So much for a slow start. Laine had a night to remember on Nov. 24, becoming the first NHL player since Johan Franzen in 2011 to score five goals in one game. He was also the first 20-year-old to do it since Wayne Gretzky in 1981.
No one could have been more excited about this than Christopher Haley, a Jets fan from Winnipeg. As part of an ongoing promotion, Haley won $1 million when Laine potted his fifth.
1. Reaching the Western Conference Final
In getting past the rival Nashville Predators, 2017-18 marked the first time any Jets team won two rounds in a Stanley Cup Playoffs — whether this incarnation or the original version. And the way they did it put a cherry on top, too. After falling 4-0 at home in Game 6, the Jets hit the road in Game 7 and chased starter Pekka Rinne from the net a little more than 10 minutes into the game. They allowed just one goal after that and added three more of their own for a decisive 5–1 win.