Many will point to the Winnipeg Jets inactivity over the past week relative to the Montreal Canadiens busy schedule and see it as a major edge when the two teams take the ice for Game 1 of the all-Canadian division final Wednesday night in Winnipeg.
It certainly looks that way. The Candiens have been extremely busy of late. They took their best-of-seven series with the Toronto Maple Leafs right to the bitter end, while the Jets haven't seen an opponent over the past week since sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in their first-round matchup.
In theory, a well-rested Jets team should be able to steamroll the Canadiens, who are coming off a stretch of seven games in 12 days, at least in the first game.
But things don't always work out the way they seemingly should. And Jets captain Blake Wheeler wasn't about to crown his team with an early lead, rest or not.
"It’s hard to pinpoint how that works. I’ve seen where the team comes off an emotional Game 7 win and they have an awesome Game 1. We did that. A couple years ago, we had an emotional win against Nashville and we came out and we were flying high in Game 1 against Vegas," Wheeler said.
"There’s really no template for it. It’s one of those things that you see how it goes. I’m anticipating this to be a patient series, one where there’s not going to be a ton of breakaways back and forth."
The debate between rust versus rest has been around for years. It's certainly far from a perfect science.
Jets coach Paul Maurice had seen the debate play out over his decades-long coaching career. He takes it as more of a case-by-case approach.
"There would be advantages or disadvantages in either situation. And it all depends on what happens in the series," Maurice said. "So if you got rest then you’re rested and you’ve got lots of energy to push through a seven-game series if that’s what comes up between Winnipeg and Montreal, we should have good legs for that. And if you’ve come off a seven-game series and you’ve won, you’ve dialed right into your game. You know, especially with the way the last three games went for Montreal, they’re on their A game right now. So they get to stay in that rhythm.
"So they’ll be really good out of the gate and we’re going to have to make sure that we’re as simple as we possibly can be, we haven’t played in a while so we have to get back into playoff hockey as quick as we possibly can. So whatever team is able to adhere to that idea the best has the best chance of winning the first night."
Ramping up the intensity to a level required to succeed in the playoffs is certainly easier said than done. Maurice said it starts with bringing his players back to earth, making sure they're not feeling too high off the series win.
Then it's about regaining that edge they had that made them excell against the Oilers.
"The reason that you can’t play playoff hockey (all year) is just that you couldn’t physically and mentally survive it. You just can’t get to that level," Maurice said. "And then when you have a long break, human nature takes you out of that level. So we have to get ourselves back to that level as fast as we can."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.