The 24 year-old Swede was the X-Factor in Anaheim’s sweep of Winnipeg.
Heading into its Western Conference First Round series, there were three, maybe four, players that the Winnipeg Jets almost certainly identified as keys to the series: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and either Ryan Kesler or Frederik Andersen (or both).
Every scouting report on the Ducks begins and ends with Getzlaf and Perry, of course; shut those two guys down, and you have chopped the head off of the snake. Once Getzlaf and Perry are neutralized, you minimize the damage Kesler can do with the second unit and hope your best players can get Andersen rattled early.
It’s a sound game plan – in any sport, you want to shut down the opposition’s best 1-2 players and force the rest of the guys to elevate their game – and in some respects, it worked, as Getzlaf managed only four points for the entire series, and none in the final two games.
But Winnipeg was never able to contain Jakob Silfverberg, who scored one of Anaheim’s game winning goals, set up Ryan Kesler for the goal that sent Game 3 in to overtime, and provided the back-breaker in last night’s Game 4 victory to help Anaheim complete the sweep. He was truly the X-Factor for a team that needed someone else to make up for Getzlaf’s being neutralized, and I’m willing to bet the Jets never even saw him coming.
Silfverberg really started to put his stamp on the series in the waning seconds of Game 2. Watch as Silfverberg gets dragged down, only to get back to the front of the net, beat Bryan Little to the puck and then outmaneuver him on the boards, allowing him to skate into the face-off circle and wrist the game-winner past Ondrej Pavelec.
Credit the Ducks’ aggressive forecheck, a staple of every third period in this series, for keeping the puck in the zone, but once the puck goes behind the net, that play is all Silfverberg.
Onto Game 3, in which Silfverberg scored came up with three huge points. Again, Silfverberg’s efforts came in clutch moments. First, he keeps the puck alive as the seconds are winding down in the first period, leading to Cam Fowler tying the game 1-all with only 5.4 seconds left – a huge blow to the momentum the Jets would have had going into the locker room during intermission.
Silfverberg then helps Anaheim overcome another one-goal deficit in the second, when he one-times a beautiful pass from Kelser into the back of the net. And when it mattered the absolute most, Silfverberg would return the favor to Kesler:
Kesler’s goal marked the third-straight game that the Ducks had overcome a one-goal deficit in the third period, and the second-straight game that Silfverberg had stolen the Jets’ happiness late in the contest. Overtime was a mere formality – clearly, fate was being kind to the Comeback Kids in this series.
Then came Game 4, a do-or-die scenario for the Jets. Every Ducks fan watching this game knew that the Jets would enjoy a few stretches in which they absolutely took over the game, and that Anaheim would just have to bide their time and wait for Winnipeg to make a mistake. I think we were all a little surprised that Anaheim started the third period ahead, rather than down, a goal, but we were not surprised when Winnipeg tried to flip the switch, pulling within one after Kesler had given the Ducks a two-goal cushion. With the Jets desperately trying to score the equalizer, it was once again Silfverberg connecting with Kesler for the back-breaker:
More so than any other player on the Ducks’ roster (yes, even Ryan Kesler), Jakob Silfverberg absolutely murdered the Winnipeg Jets during the final twenty minutes of each contest. It takes a special type of player to be at his best during crunch time – just think of the name that Justin Williams, “Mr. Game 7,” has made for himself by stepping up his game when the LA Kings have needed him the most. If he keeps dominating the final 20 minutes of games like he did in this series, the Ducks are going to have a deep playoff run for certain, and Silfverberg could find himself with a cool new nickname or even some shiny hardware above his fireplace.
Three games in a row, Silfverberg was responsible for stealing the souls of Jets fans everywhere, and possibly even turning unborn babies into life-long Ducks haters (or diehard Ducks fans, depending on the household!).
If I were him, I wouldn’t step foot in Winnipeg anytime in the next, oh, decade!
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