With a convincing 5-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, the Winnipeg Jets clinched their opening series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will now face the Nashville Predators in Round 2. The two teams ended the regular season with the best records in the NHL–the Predators at No. 1 with 117 points and the Jets at No. 2 with 114 points.
The playoff format adopted after the 2014 NHL realignment means that a series of this magnitude can happen sooner than it would in the previous 8-seeded format. Instead of seeding all eight teams in each conference, the current format pits the top three teams and one wild card against each other in each division. So instead of a Conference Finals clash, we now have the most exciting match-up of the postseason happening in Round 2. It’s expected that the winner of this series will win, or at least play in, the Stanley Cup Finals.
Moving to the AHL, the Manitoba Moose kicked off their postseason at home this past weekend, splitting the weekend 1-1 with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Former Icemen Jan Kostalek scored his first career playoff goal, and the first playoff goal scored at Bell MTS Place since May 6, 2011, in the Moose’s 3-2 win over Grand Rapids in Game 1.
Despite striking first, and early, the Moose fell 5-1 as the Griffins tied the series in Game 2. Former Icemen Jamie Phillips was loaned from the Jets to the Moose where he saw his first professional playoff action after taking over for Eric Comrie in the third period of the loss. Manitoba heads to Grand Rapids for the next three games in the best-of-five series, beginning Wednesday.