The Anaheim Duck have swept the Winnipeg Jets, taking the series home with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday night at the MTS Centre. The Jets came out with energy and life, to be sure, but the Ducks quietly hopped on opportunities and scored timely goals.
The trouble with playing on pure vitality is that there’s a lot of room for error. For every moment a Dustin Byfuglien flew out of position to attempt a big hit, there was a Corey Perry to slip the puck to Andrew Cogliano for a big goal. The towel-waving environs of the MTS Centre made for an impressive sight, but it was what landed on the scoreboard that mattered.
At times in Game Four, it seemed like Winnipeg was really in it. Defenceman Mark Stuart scored a third period goal to get his team within one, but Ryan Kesler shut things back down with his second of the game and put the Ducks back on track.
In essence, that was how things were always going to be. Anaheim has silently done the job while other teams with more flash and fire have generated attention. Few picked the Ducks to have much playoff success, but it’s hard to imagine a more calm, cool and collected team in this post-season.
Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen made the right saves at the right time, while Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec struggled to find his game. He allowed 15 goals across four games, good for a terrible goals against average of 3.73 and a save percentage of .891.
Despite trailing in the third period of the first three games of the series, the Ducks never panicked. They were the best in the NHL at coming back and they proved why in the first round. Ahead of Game Four, the Ducks played with a lead for just 11:21 while the Jets held a lead for 68:19. But that third period really mattered, with Anaheim outscoring Winnipeg 9-1 in the final frame through the series.
“We win. We don’t care how. We just win,” Kesler said after Game Three. “We’ve been doing it all year. We win in different ways. The majority of times we are down in games, but for whatever reason that’s when this team plays its best, when we’re down and we’re pushing. That’s one thing this team can do, is score goals at timely opportunities. We’ve been doing that in this series.”
And they’ll continue to do that as they move on to the second round of these playoffs.
As for the Jets, they’ve got a lot to be proud of. They’re a tough, physical team with a heck of a home crowd at the MTS Centre. Nobody left with the Jets down. Nobody stopped chanting “Go Jets Go,” even with the score decided. Everyone stood with a roaring ovation, right up to the end and beyond.
With a few minor adjustments, the Jets will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. They proved down the stretch that they could pull off big momentum wins, but they also proved that momentum really isn’t everything in the playoffs.