KeepHealthCare.ORG – JETS SNAPS: Vegas flu fix, Jets and Knights prove doubters wrong, dreaming of Sin City
LAS VEGAS — If there’s such a thing as the Las Vegas flu, the Winnipeg Jets believe they don’t have to worry about it at this time of year.
Apparently, this is a bug that only afflicts visiting teams in the winter, aka, the NHL regular season.
The symptoms include a propensity to go out on the town the evening before games, leading to a drowsiness or lightheadedness on the day of games.
The not-so-mysterious condition helped the Golden Knights produce a 29-10-2 home record in their first season, a key reason for their success as an expansion team.
But the Jets insist they’ve seen no sign of the bug since arriving on Tuesday for Games 3 and 4 (Wednesday and Friday) of this Western Conference Final.
“You get that out of your system during the regular season,” defenceman Ben Chiarot said before Wednesday’s opening faceoff. “Playoffs is not a time to be enjoying Vegas.”
So obviously Chiarot and his teammates had some fun before their regular-season game here in November, when they also enjoyed a couple days off?
“No,” Chiarot said. “We were working out and practising the whole time. We enjoyed the rink.”
Even at night?
“Even at night.”
Not that his proves anything, but the Jets dropped that one and only visit to Vegas during the season, 5-2 — their only regulation loss in a 10-game stretch at the time.
Fellow defenceman Josh Morrissey dismissed the notion the Golden Knights’ success at home was padded by opposition partying.
“Everybody understands how good that team is over there,” Morrissey said. “So when people are talking about how good their home record is, I think you should look at how good their team is before anything else.”
Strangely enough, home teams were just 1-4, combined, in the league’s two conference finals, going into Wednesday’s Game 3.
The Jets and Vegas split two games in Winnipeg, while the Washington-Tampa Bay series has yet to produce a winner on home ice in three games.
Teams scratch and claw all season to get home-ice advantage, and this happens.
“Who knows (why)?” Jets forward Mathieu Perreault said. “The ice is the same size, the boards are the same height, the benches are the same size. I guess we fight all year to make the playoffs, more than anything else. We never talked about getting home ice. It was just getting in the playoffs.”
THE REAL DEALS
A lot of people needed a lot of convincing to acknowledge Vegas was a contender.
For Chiarot, that came late in the first half of the season.
“They came out of the gate pretty hot, and you think it’s just teams taking them lightly,” Chiarot said. “It was around Christmas time, or just before, we played them and we saw they’re the real deal. They’re quick and they play hard and they stay with it the whole game.”
The Jets won a back-and-forth, 7-4 meeting in Winnipeg in early December that included an empty-net goal.
That’s around the time Chiarot became convinced his own team was pretty darn good.
“The first half of any season your team’s figuring out what you have and what kind of team you’re going to be,” Chiarot said. “The second half you feel the chemistry in the room and how we play and stick with it – we had some games where we came back, down a few goals. Those are the signs of a good team. Teams that can go far.
“You just realize we’ve got some good character in this room and good determination.”
Combined with some high-end talent, that’s a lethal combination.
“We’ve got some of the best players in the league,” Chiarot said. “We’ve got a lot of different talent. But it’s funny, that’s not the big story on our team. It’s the collective and how we perform. Our top guys are character guys. That’s what’s important. Everybody tugging in the same direction.
“If you’ve got someone, especially one of your important guys, pulling in the other direction, it can kill a team.”
Perreault insists he knew the Jets would be a contender right from training camp.
“Even the year before, we had that feeling in here that we were better than that,” Perreault said. “We felt like we should have made the playoffs. And our team is pretty much the same. Coming into training camp, looking at our lineup, you just had that feeling we’re as good as any team in the league, so why not?
“Once we clinched we came into the playoffs confident that we can play with anybody. That was always there.”
DREAMS OF… VEGAS?
Growing up, no hockey player would have dreamed of playing a Stanley Cup semifinal in a desert city known for its gambling and night life.
Players and coaches walked through the sunshine to the arena for Saturday’s morning skate, past casinos, palm trees, crowds of tourists – and plenty of Golden Knights paraphernalia hanging from restaurant and bar windows and along the street.
“It’s been a good story this year,” Chiarot said. “It’s good for the league to have a new team come in and perform like they’ve performed. It’s a great rink to play in, a great atmosphere. It’s turned into a pretty big hockey market, now.
“Walk around Vegas, you see all the Knights stuff everywhere. It’s good to see.”
The team’s practice, Wednesday morning, was jammed with fans, too, much like when the Jets practise at the Iceplex in Winnipeg.
“It’s unbelievable, to see it on TV, see everything that’s going on,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, a Summerside, PEI native, said. “Our fans are so good for us, it’s exciting. They love their hockey team. Another 800 people watching practice. They’re behind us, big-time.”
COCKY, AND GOOD
It turns out Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault’s idol was fellow Quebecer Martin St. Louis, and the 5-foot-9 Marchessault plays a lot like the former star, too.
He even has some of the same attitude.
“He’s a cocky little guy,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “He jokes around in the locker-room. He has lots of fun. He has lots to say. But our players love him. Some people might take it the wrong way. But in our locker-room, our group really likes him.”
Marchessault didn’t score in three games against Winnipeg during the regular season, but had two goals in Vegas’s Game 2 win.
THE WINNIPEG FLU?
Vegas is no more forthcoming with injury information than the Jets are.
Here’s an exchange between reporters and winger David Perron, who missed Game 2 in Winnipeg with an undisclosed ailment.
Reporter: “How do you feel?”
Perron: “Better. Game-time decision.”
Reporter: “Was it something you ate up there?”
Perron: “Just wasn’t feeling well.”
Reporter: “Winnipeg flu?”
Perron: “Yeah, I guess. There’s a Vegas flu and a Winnipeg flu, now. It’s what it is. Can’t really say too much more about it.”