ANALYSIS: Winnipeg Jets set for unpredictable first-round playoff series

The Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway Monday night with what begins as a 16-team tournament for the most difficult trophy to win in all of pro sports.

And it’s quite evident Winnipeg Jets fans are all in after being on the outside the past three years.

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There was the Edmonton bubble in 2020, then the empty arena pandemic playoffs of 2021.

Yes, the Winnipeg Jets were a part of both, but for fans, it was a remote experience. And not at all like being there.

Then, of course, there was last year, when the Jets didn’t earn an invite to the dance.

So even though attendance at Canada Life Centre during the regular season was just over 14,000 — or a touch above 91.5 per cent capacity — it was not that big a surprise to learn that Games 3 and 4 will be played in front of sold-out crowds when the Jets and Vegas series shifts to downtown Winnipeg this coming Saturday afternoon and the following Monday.

The odds vary from one online sports betting outlet to another. And that also holds true on the prediction front for the likes of the staff, national broadcast insiders, etc.

But there is no doubt — and rightfully so, based on 82 games during the regular season — the Golden Knights are considered the favourites.

But, at least initially, Vegas vs. Winnipeg is also expected to be the most competitive matchup of the eight first-round series.

Whether you hear or read Golden Knights in six, or Jets in seven, there is only a 12.5 per cent chance of those forecasts being totally accurate.

And recent past history — like Columbus’ stunning upset of Tampa Bay in 2018, or Winnipeg taking out Edmonton in four straight just two years ago — if favourites are toppled, it’s often more likely to happen in round one.

So have fun with all the opinions and speculation from the experts and insiders, but more importantly, just enjoy the ride.

Because unlike the rollercoaster at the Red River Ex or your favourite theme park, we honestly don’t know with 100 per cent certainty how this one is going to end.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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