LAS VEGAS — Ah, Game 4.
It is, most often, the game on which a playoff series turns. If the Winnipeg Jets win tonight, we’re likely going the distance. Lose, and we wouldn’t put a dime down on anyone beating this Vegas team three straight times.
“It’s a must-win for us, we have to see it that way,” said Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault, who thinks the Jets should embrace that emotion. “Feel the urgency. If you feel that it usually brings the best out of everybody.”
Mark Scheifele, of course, wasn’t buying much of this. You want leadership? How about this quote:
“There should be urgency in every game. It’s playoffs,” the smokin’ red-hot Scheifele said. “We’re down 2-1. We’re on the road. There’s got to be that desperation in our game.”
The Jets hadn’t lost two straight games since mid-March before losing Games 2 and 3 of this series. Also, tonight marks the first time all spring that Winnipeg has trailed in a series.
Tickle Me Andre
It was an awesome bit of video from Game 3, when the TV cameras caught Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury reaching out to tickle the back of Blake Wheeler’s ear, when the Jets captain was engaged in a post-whistle scrum in Fleury’s crease.
Like, who DOES that?
“Well I didn’t clean my ears that day, so joke’s on him,” Wheeler chuckled Friday morning. “I had no idea it happened. At breakfast yesterday somebody showed it to me. Like I said, this league’s getting weird.”
How does one seek revenge for such an act. Do you tickle him back? Perhaps a good, stern noogie?
“It doesn’t bother me, I thought it was funny,” said Wheeler. “Like I said, things just keep getting weird. It is what it is.”
Heck of a Quote
A confident Connor Hellebuyck said after losing Game 3 that he liked the state of his game better than Fleury’s. This, despite the fact that Fleury leads all goalies with a .945 save percentage and a 1.70 goals against average, plus sits tied with two others at 10 wins this spring.
Statistically speaking, Fleury is the best goalie in these playoffs — hands down. But you have to give Hellebuyck credit for confidence, don’t you?
“I’m not exactly sure why he would say that,” said Vegas winger Ryan Reeves. “I don’t think you want to hear your starting goalie say he’s not playing well, or he’s getting outplayed by the other guy. But I feel like our goalie has been the best goalie in the whole playoffs. He has his opinion, and I have mine.”
Speaking of Fleury, the Jets shooters are struggling with The Flower like so many others in playoffs past. After facing big, butterfly goalies in Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne over two rounds, the smaller more acrobatic Fleury is quite a departure from the norm.
He is the Grant Fuhr of his generation, Fleury, eschewing style points and willing to do whatever it takes to make the save. His diving block of Scheifele’s rebound shot in Game 3 looked like a guy at the lake, launching off the pier.
“His style is a bit different,” observed Jets centre Bryan Little. “A couple of the saves he’s making — on our line, particularly — you don’t see goalies do that much. I came down on him on a breakaway, and he completely went sideways. It kind of threw me off.
“He’s a guy who, when you think you have him beat — when he looks like he’s down and out — he manages to get a piece of it. It’s really important to have guys around him for those second and third chances.”
Sorry, no one is giving out any info on whether or not Nikolaj Ehlers will be in the Jets lineup tonight, least of all Jets head coach Paul Maurice. He could be a healthy scratch, for all we know.
Remember, this 29-goal scorer from the regular season has played 17 playoff games without a single goal so far, though he has added seven assists. Maurice steadfastly refuses to give up the smallest morsel of info on injured players or lineup changes, so we’ll wait until the warmup tonight to find out.
With or without Ehlers, the Jets are looking to find their game again, after three costly turnovers submarined the Game 3 effort.
“You don’t want to feed into what they do well,” said Wheeler. “The first goal (a Scheifele giveaway) was a tough bounce on our part going into the zone, they have a guy playing behind the defenceman waiting for it. Just be smart with it, make them work for their offence and don’t feed into what they do well.”
Translation: If Vegas is going to score, make them work for it. Free goals, like the one Hellebuyck gave away on the second Vegas goal, are cripplers.