Winnipeg Jets players celebrate the win over the Edmonton Oilers during overtime NHL Stanley Cup playoff action in Edmonton on May 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Maurice: Jets just needed to be ‘one goal better’ in series with Oilers

Maurice: Jets just needed to be ‘one goal better’ in series with Oilers

WINNIPEG — Dylan DeMelo figures the Winnipeg Jets’ unexpected elimination of the favoured Edmonton Oilers might have busted some fantasy playoff brackets.

The Jets went back to work Wednesday after taking a day off following their sweep of the Oilers in their first-round North Division series. The Jets finished off the hard-fought set with 4-3 triple-overtime win over Edmonton on Monday.

The narrative in some circles entering the series was whether the Oilers and scoring star Connor McDavid could continue their regular-season mastery of the Jets in the playoffs.

The Jets, however, flipped the script in the post-season. DeMelo and defence partner Josh Morrissey spearheaded a team-wide effort to limit opportunities for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, keeping the superstar duo off the scoresheet entirely over the first two games of the series.

“We heard that outside noise and we thought that we could ruin some people’s playoff pools,” DeMelo said Wednesday,

“I think the guys really stood up and took that opportunity and ran with it.”

Anyone who picked the Oilers to defeat the Jets had logical reasons for doing so. The Oilers beat the Jets seven times in nine regular-season meetings, with scoring stars McDavid (seven goals, 15 assists) and Draisaitl (seven goals, five assists) feasting on Winnipeg’s defence in those games.

“You understand why the Oilers were favoured,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “When you finish ahead of us in the standings, and you have two players that are so unusual and so dynamic, it’s an understandable prediction.”

Maurice said, however, that the regular-season series between the teams was closer than the results may have indicated. Putting aside empty-net goals, five of Winnipeg’s losses to the Oilers were by one goal.

“What we needed to do wasn’t to dominate the series, we needed to change it by a goal,” Maurice said. “Give up one, get one more, and that’s all you need to go over a seven-game series, and that’s how that whole thing kind of played out.”

The Jets won the first game of the series 4-1, though two of the goals were into an empty net. The next three went to overtime.

“It’s not a four-game sweep, we probably ended up playing closer to five,” Maurice said. “But we were one goal better on the games that we needed to be.

“We’re mot coming to the rink thinking we dominated the Edmonton Oilers. We just came in and scratched and clawed to be one goal better in each game and found a way to do it.”

Forward Andrew Copp said the outside perception of the Jets heading into these playoffs was different to the last time Winnipeg made a playoff run in 2017-18.

That season the Jets finished second in the Central Division, and in the entire NHL, with 114 points and defeated Central top seed Nashville in a tough seven-game second-round series before falling to Vegas in five games in the Western Conference final.

“Three years ago we were kind of expected to move on,” Copp said. “This time I think we were, a little bit more, doubted along the way.

“I don’t think there was much of a difference in terms of the feeling inside the room, because we believed in ourselves and thought we could definitely make a run at this thing.”

Copp said while players don’t necessary use that outside doubt as fuel, they are aware of it.

“You see picks that are made going into a series, and obviously you saw the Oilers logo a lot more than you saw the Jets logo,” he said. “I don’t know if it was mentioned once, but it gives you a little added chip on the shoulder.

“I don’t think that leads to us wanting to win more than them. I don’t think it was the difference in the series or anything like that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

NHL

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