NHL Mixed Bag: Pound for pound, Jets vs. Predators living up to heavyweight billing

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Predators and Jets (Getty Pictures)

Every Monday through the NHL playoffs, Rob Mixer takes a take a look at the most important storylines from the hockey week that was.

Winnipeg-Nashville is the heavyweight battle we hoped (and thought) it will be.

As I used to be sitting down watching Recreation 2 final night time, there have been a minimum of six moments through the recreation that I assumed: “That is simply insanely good hockey.” These two groups hate one another — they’re the highest two groups within the division, in any case, they usually get collectively typically — however hatred isn’t on the forefront of this collection. It’s not physicality, scrums, fights … it’s excessive-degree, out-of-this-world hockey from two dynamic and loaded groups that merely don’t need to cede one inch to the opposite.

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The Jets performed the perfect street recreation to take a 1-zero collection lead. They have been ok at key moments, performed properly 5-on-5, and have been backed up by Connor Hellebuyck’s super efficiency. In Recreation 2, the Predators have been prepared to swing again … they usually definitely did.

Ryan Johansen delivered the primary blow solely 27 seconds into the sport.

Bridgestone Area is thundering. The Predators are feeling it. However the Jets, as they’ve accomplished within the first two video games, hung round and pounced on a few possibilities. Within the blink of an eye fixed, it’s a 2-1 recreation and the constructing is quiet. 

Not so quick. The Predators got here proper again, tying the sport within the second interval after which taking a three-2 lead on Viktor Arvidsson’s lead-foot slap shot previous Hellebuyck, a objective that despatched the world right into a roar as soon as once more. Momentum appeared to be teetering towards the Predators in Recreation 2, whereas it didn’t actually really feel that method in Recreation 1, and perhaps they have been prepared to strike again within the collection and take management of the sport.

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However as this collection has gone up to now — we’re two video games in and it’s felt like a lifetime (in a great way) — Winnipeg didn’t go away. Did I point out that this collection is superior? Overlook the remainder of the second spherical; let’s simply put these two groups in a metal cage and play a greatest-of-37. 

Who has Gary Bettman’s e mail tackle? That is essential.

I truthfully thought the Jets have been going to win Recreation 2. That they had their possibilities within the third interval, too. Brandon Tanev tied the sport at 5:eleven, a pleasant sprint by way of the impartial zone that culminated in a low boring shot previous Pekka Rinne’s stick aspect. And the lead, shockingly, didn’t final lengthy. Johansen’s second of the sport got here solely 34 seconds later, and it was a murals.

With Toby Enstrom on his again, Johansen reduce to the web and went bar-down on Hellebuyck. For the three hundredth time in Recreation 2, the Predators had momentum. That they had confidence. That they had the constructing rocking. And the Jets hit them within the mouth within the remaining minutes of regulation.

Mark Schiefele, recreation-tying aim with 1:05 to go. The Jets have been buzzing. The Jets struck for a dagger.

The additional time was forwards and backwards, up and down the ice and each rush felt like one thing particular. Rinne and Hellebuyck every made a handful of giant saves to maintain it going, and nothing was settled after the primary 20-minute interval. At that time, you’re questioning how lengthy this could go on — and selfishly, I used to be settled in for three or 4 overtimes.

That’s not an excessive amount of to ask, proper?

However let’s speak concerning the recreation-profitable aim. My goodness.

In a recreation as tightly contested and entertaining as Recreation 2 was, you hoped that a particular objective would finish it. You will have Kevin Fiala, who broke his leg in final yr’s playoffs and was fairly dangerous (by his personal admission) on this yr’s opening spherical, scoring the most important objective of his younger NHL profession to ship the Predators to Winnipeg with hope.

The cross from Craig Smith? Chic. The endurance and poise by Fiala to out-wait Hellebuyck and beat him to the lengthy aspect, on his backhand? Even higher.

It was a becoming finish to an unimaginable recreation, and by chance for all of us watching, it was solely Recreation 2 of what figures to be a looooooong collection.