What Went Wrong: Jets Swept Out of Elite Eight
The Winnipeg Jets became the first team eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; swept by the Montréal Canadiens
The North Division was the last to complete the opening round of this year's playoffs, but they were the first to crown a playoff division champion, as the Winnipeg Jets ended up swept by the Montréal Canadiens in the North Division Final. The Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers to advance, but when it came to the Canadiens, the Jets couldn't handle the team who was coming off a comeback series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. While this is still an improvement over last year, and also exceeded expectations for them in the playoffs, it is still a disappointing end for a strong team.
So what went wrong? A number of things, but the most glaring thing was Mark Scheifele. We all saw this. The Jets were badly outplayed by the Canadiens in Game 1 of that series, and their extra attacker plan resulted in the Habs being set to put in the empty net goal. Jake Evans put the goal in, but Scheifele charged at Evans like a freight train and delivered a hit right to his head. This was targeting, plain and simple, and the disturbing thing is that there were fans actually trying to say that Scheifele did nothing wrong. They said he was trying to prevent the goal from happening (the puck was in prior to the hit). They said Scheifele hit Evans' chest (replay clearly show his head was hit). They even had the temerity to say that Evans' should have had his head up (he did, Scheifele still hit it intentionally). Scheifele received a four game suspension which he deemed "excessive." Oh boy.
As we've seen in the tail end of the regular season, when the Jets have one of their stars out, they struggle. We saw it when Nikolaj Ehlers was out; a terrible losing skid to end the regular season. And we saw it here with Scheifele's suspension; Ehlers, Kyle Connor--non-factors. The offense as a whole was minimal; they were outscored 14-6 in the four game series. They had also been without Paul Stastny, who (like Connor and Ehlers) had an overtime goal against the Oilers in Round 1. And speaking of the Oilers, a lot of mocking and ridicule has been sent towards them, as the terrible play of the Jets in this series had fans (myself included) wondering how the Oilers--with not one but two bonafide superstars--could fail to win a single game against this team, yet the Canadiens (who weren't supposed to win one playoff game, let alone eight) swept the Jets so easily.
The Jets will return to the Central Division next season, and deal with the Avalanche, Stars, Wild, Predators, Blues, Blackhawks, and the Arizona Coyotes (who will cross over to the Central due to the debut of the Seattle Kraken). They still have a pretty good core in Ehlers, Schiefele, and Connor, and they have good Power Play scores in Stastny and Andrew Copp. Most importantly, they still have last year's Vezina winner, Connor Hellebuyck, in net. The Jets should still continue to be a force in the Central Division and be that team who makes the playoffs every year. This season was their fourth straight in the playoffs. I see that streak continuing for as long as they keep that core. I can't see them making any big additions or drastic trades, because they have a lot of valuable players. The only thing : their most important players need to stay healthy as long as possible, because if one of them is out for a long enough while, it could be trouble.