There were not a lot of expectations for the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets entering the season. Despite having Connor Hellebuyck the reigning Vezina Trophy winner on their team. Many people projected to finish outside of the top four when it came to the playoffs in the North Division. However, the Jets showed all season long do not underestimate them. At one point, the Jets were challenging the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top spot in the division. While Winnipeg’s defence was an area of concern, their offence carried this team. And yes they struggled down the stretch, which put doubt in many expert’s minds entering the playoffs. However, inside the locker room, the Jets believed they could win and winning at the end of the regular gave this team confidence heading into the playoffs. And it has shown as the Jets sweep the Oilers out of the playoffs.
2020-21 Winnipeg Jets Playing Role of Underdogs
Entering their series with the Edmonton Oilers, the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets were playing the role of underdogs. But were they really an underdog considering the Jets were getting healthy at the right time. Just look at the team especially upfront with Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and a healthy Nikolaj Ehlers. Not to mention Connor Hellebuyck in between the pipes. Again was the Jets’ defence the greatest? No, but head coach Paul Maurice, who is very underrated, put a game plan in place to stop Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Maurice has got his team playing team-first defence and is doing the best at what he has got on the back end anchored by Neal Pionk.
Winnipeg thrives the best when they play the role of the underdog. Nobody had expectations for them against Edmonton. Many figured the Oilers would just dominate. Look who was on the other side, but one of the big storylines entering the playoffs was two guys carrying a team in the playoffs. The Oilers are finding out they need more from their support staff instead of just relying on McDavid and Draisaitl to do everything. And that is a credit to the way Winnipeg is playing. They are playing with a chip on their shoulder and it is showing. Nobody thought the Jets be in this position, but yet here they are again and again and again.
While Toronto and Montreal are the media darlings, the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets have been going about their business and are in a position to be in the second round of the playoffs. And recent history shows, when the Jets get rolling in the playoffs they can go far. Another reason why you should not sleep on this team.
Nothing Flashy About the Jets
There is nothing flashy about these Winnipeg Jets either. Yeah, they have big names on the team, but they are work as a cohesive unit. Winnipeg is such a grinding team and they never give up. Just look at their Game 3 victory over Edmonton. They were left for dead down 4-1 but rallied to win in overtime thanks to a returning Nikolaj Ehlers. That never-quit attitude is attributed to their head coach. He is always pushing his team to better. And while some think, Maurice should have been gone during their losing streak to end the year, who were you going to replace him with. He gets so much out of every player on this team. If he has to bench a top player he will. Nothing comes easy for the Jets and that will continue to be the case as the playoffs continue.
Expect the Unexpected
One of the areas that were a concern for the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets all season was their defence. It was quite shocking they did not add a bigger name at the deadline. Winnipeg picked up Jordie Benn. But has proven to be a smart move. Winnipeg believed in the players they had on the roster. Sometimes when you do not expect much from something, they exceed expectations. Just look at the Jets’ defence in the playoffs thus far. They have held McDavid and Draisaitl to seven points in the four games. The objective was simple throughout the series to make the other guys beat you. And the Jets’ defence is holding up nicely.
An aspect of Winnipeg’s game people were sleeping. Nobody thought they could stop those guys once, but they did it twice. And while those two players got their points in Game 3, the Jets defence has done a good job holding the fort. Again not the flashiest of names back there with guys like Pionk, Nathan Beaulieau, Benn, Dylan Demelo, Logan Stanley and others. But they have gotten the job and are sacrificing their bodies to win. And that is all you can from a team this time of year. And these players have heard all the noise about how they are not good enough. The Jets defence used that as motivation and are playing very well.
Remember that the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2017 was just an average defence that took them to a Stanley Cup. Playing good defence matters especially in the playoffs.
Now that the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets have advanced to the second round, they will be the underdogs again no matter who they face. Keep sleeping on this team because they will keep proving you wrong time and time again.
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