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Jets to face Avalanche in first round after season sweep


The Winnipeg Jets are slated for an intriguing bout against the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Dallas Stars clinched the Central Division title with their victory over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday, locking the Jets and Avalanche locked in as the second- and third-ranked teams in the division.

Could Winnipeg's success against the Avalanche this season could be a preview of things to come this spring?

Head to head

Winnipeg beat Colorado in all three of their games this year - by scores of 4-2 and 6-2 in December, and a dominant 7-0 showing on Saturday.

Defenceman Josh Morrissey totaled seven points (two goals) in the three games. Forwards Gabriel Vilardi and Adam Lowry each recorded three goals, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. 

"We have the best goalie in the League,” Jets defenseman Neal Pionk said after their game on Saturday. "It gives us a ton of confidence, let’s you play freely, make some plays. And like I said, when we play these good teams, they're going to make some plays no matter what we do. We could play a perfect game and still give up a few scoring chances, and that's where the goalie helps us out.”

Hellebuyck and the Jets have allowed 194 goals this season entering play on Monday, which is the fewest in the NHL. It will be a classic defence vs. offence matchup against the Avalanche, whose 299 goals rank tops in the league.

“I don't know. It's disappointing," Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano said after the 7-0 loss. "The bottom line is, you get behind on a team like that, it's going to be really hard to come back. So that's just the nature of the beast where we're at with a team like that."

Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, a Hart Trophy favourite, is second in the NHL with 138 points (51 goals and 87 assists) and was the lone Avs skater to tally multiple points (one goal, three assists) in the regular-season series between the two teams.

Home ice

The matchup is set, but as of Apr. 15, the standings are not locked in stone. The Jets enter play on Monday at 106 points with two games left, while the Avalanche trail at 105 points with only one game remaining.

Colorado can still earn home-ice advantage for this series with a win and a pair of Jets losses in the final four days of the season, which could play a significant role in helping determine a winner in the series:

Home/road splits

Team Overall record Home record Road record
Winnipeg Jets  50-24-6  25-11-3  25-13-3 
Colorado Avalanche  49-25-7  30-9-1  19-16-6 

The Avalanche have an NHL-best 61 points on home ice this season, and MacKinnon has 87 points at Ball Arena this season compared to 51 on the road. He was held without a point on home ice only two times this season - one of which was on Saturday against the Jets.

“For us, starting at home, it would be awesome playing in front of the fans. We’ve worked so hard to put it in our control,” Lowry said. “That’s nice, but whether we start at home or on the road, we’re a real confident group."

The intangibles

While Winnipeg is likely to claim home-ice advantage for the series, they will be unable to claim the advantage of experience against an Avalanche squad that won a Stanley Cup just two seasons ago.

The Jets have advanced beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs only one time in the last six seasons, while the Avalanche have failed to win at least one playoff series only once in that time frame. 

“We're going to have to learn from it, study it, and understand it, because we're going to have to be a lot better than that," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after their loss on the weekend. 

These two teams have never met in the Stanley Cup playoffs before, but their regular-season matchups have been tightly contested in recent memory - outside of this season. Since the 2018-19 campaign, the Avalanche are 8-8-2 against the Jets. 

"They’re a great hockey team over there. They are," Jets coach Rick Bowness said after Saturday's game. "They have elite players, the coaches have got them playing hockey. Today, that’s not their hockey team. We know they’re a great hockey team, and we know it’s going to be a tough series.”