The Winnipeg Jets were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens, losing 3-2 in overtime in Game 4 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round at Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday.
The Jets (30-23-3) were the No. 3 seed in the Scotia North Division. They were 6-3-0 against the Canadiens in the regular season.
Here’s a look at what happened during the 2021 postseason for the Jets and why things could be even better next season:
Potential unrestricted free agents: Paul Stastny, F; Mathieu Perreault, F; Nate Thompson, F; Trevor Lewis, F; Dominic Toninato, F; Jordie Benn, D; Tucker Poolman, D; Derek Forbort, D; Laurent Brossoit, G; Eric Comrie, G.
Potential restricted free agents: Andrew Copp, F; Neal Pionk, D; Logan Stanley, D.
Potential 2021 NHL Draft picks: 4
What went wrong
Mark Scheifele was suspended four games for charging Canadiens forward Jake Evans late in a 5-3 loss in Game 1, and the Jets offense dried up without the center. New combinations looked out of sync and Winnipeg scored three goals the rest of the series, one by center Adam Lowry and two by Stanley, a rookie defenseman
Couldn’t catch up
The Jets could not rally against the Canadiens, their stingy defense and goalie Carey Price. They were swept in four games without ever taking a lead.
Countering Montreal’s aggression
Issues with puck control and zone exits against the Canadiens forecheck cost the Jets, who failed to counter with an attack that would push too aggressively and might leave itself exposed. That was part of how the Jets neutralized Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the first round against the Edmonton Oilers, when they exploited odd man rushes to work in their favor. It didn’t happen against the Canadiens.
Reasons for optimism
The Jets have top-six forwards Kyle Connor (five), Nikolaj Ehlers (four), Scheifele (three) and Blake Wheeler (three) under contract for multiple seasons. Lowry, a third-line center and key piece in their line rotations, signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract (average annual value of $3.25 million) on April 16 to avoid becoming an unrestricted free agent.
No. 1 goalie in his prime
Connor Hellebuyck gives Winnipeg stability at the position for the foreseeable future. The 28-year-old is under contract for three more seasons and had a 2.23 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and one shutout in the 2021 playoffs. He was 24-17-3 with a 2.58 GAA, .916 save percentage and four shutouts in 45 regular season starts and led the NHL in minutes played (2,602:49), shots against (1,335) and saves (1,223).
Evolving on defense
Stanley, the No. 18 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, became a regular in the Jets lineup and scored four points (one goal, three assists) in 37 games, and three points (two goals, one assist) in eight playoff games. Ville Heinola, a first-round pick (No. 20) in the 2019 NHL Draft, played five NHL games this season and his puck-moving skills look to be a good fit. Dylan Samberg is another candidate for the roster next season after scoring seven points (one goal, six assists) in 32 games for Manitoba of the American Hockey League.