This is a league of rivalries. The games between the Rangers and Islanders, Canadiens and Maple Leafs, and even the Flames and Oilers are ones that fans of those teams mark on their calendar as soon as the schedule comes out in June.
But which team is the Winnipeg Jets’ best rival? Right now, I suspect it’s the Vegas Golden Knights — not only for the two playoff series, but also for the serious Manitoba content that helped the Knights win the Stanley Cup last June.
Montreal? Toronto? Well, yes. There’s a real appreciation for the six oldest teams in the NHL, but is that really a rivalry?
No, I don’t think there is a vicious, passionate rival for the Jets right now. But there should be. And it should be the team the Jets are playing back-to-back this weekend.
The Minnesota Wild.
And yes, I know they’ve played a playoff series, but is it an elite rivalry just yet? I think not.
It’s just under 750 kilometres to St. Paul, Minn., from Winnipeg — by far the closest NHL market. The Wild and Jets both play in the Central Division, and every game is a four-point game. In fact, if either team sweeps this weekend, the Jets will be up by 12 points, or Minnesota could be within four.
This is an eight-point weekend. This is a two-game series where you might just see what both teams are made of.
Coach Rick Bowness’s Jets can play the game any way they want: fast, physical and deliberate.
John Hynes’s team has won 11 of 14 since he took over from Dean Evason. The Wild are playing a hard-nosed, fast brand of hockey.
This has the potential of being a great weekend between two teams fighting for every inch of ice and playoff position. It could be great hockey. Hockey between two great rivals.
So here we are, on the last weekend of the calendar year. Let’s give the schedule maker a toast.
This home-and-home series with the Wild could be the key to getting this rivalry to the next level.
John Shannon on the Jets: November 30
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