The Montreal Canadiens have won four games in a row, and are tied with the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the NHL. Both teams have 8-0-1 records, and the Canadiens have scored the most goals (27). The Jets have tallied the most assists (23), and are ranked second in goals against (19).
The Winnipeg Jets are a professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference in the National Hockey League (NHL). The team was founded in 1972, and were known by their original name of the Winnipeg Jets.
With a thrilling Game 7 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens secured a spot in the North Division finals. They will take on the Winnipeg Jets, who experienced a much shorter but no less impressive first round. They beat the Edmonton Oilers, largely by neutralizing superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Which team will be the first to achieve four wins when it comes to qualifying for the Stanley Cup semifinals? Let’s break it down by position, evaluate special teams status and injuries for both clubs, and make a series of choices. Message: Advanced statistics from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey. More: View the full NHL postseason schedule here. Regular season series: 6-3 in favor of the Jets. First line: The Jets top line of Mark Scheifele (63 points), Kyle Connor (26 goals) and Blake Wheeler (46 points) is a potent offensive trio with defensive weaknesses. Of course, if you play against Connor McDavid in the first round, you don’t have a 5-on-5 scoring advantage (43.53%). However, during the regular season they also gave up an average of 3.30 goals per 60 minutes. The Canadiens deployed rookie Cole Cofield alongside center Nick Suzuki and top scorer Tyler Toffoli (28 goals). The trio hasn’t performed much yet – they score more goals than the rest of the Canadiens, but have defensive weaknesses – but their talent is undeniable. Advantage: Winnipeg Depth in front: The return of Nikolai Ehlers was important for the Jets in the first period, as he scored two goals. The Jets averaged 3.15 goals per game with him in the regular season and 2.25 goals per game in nine games without him. He raced alongside veteran Paul Stastny and Pierre-Luc Dubois, who also returned from an injury on the first lap. We haven’t seen Dubois play as beastly in the playoffs as he did on the bubble (10 points in 10 games). The trio of Adam Lowry, Andrew Kopp and Mason Appleton provide consistent defense and occasional offense. Mathieu Perreault, Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis are making the most of their limited time on the ice (58.3% expected goal percentage in the regular season). 2 Connected Carey Price was the Canadiens’ best player in the first round, but his line of control was just as important in stopping Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Phillip Dano and Brendan Gallagher are the backbone of this lineup, with Jake Evans and Tomasz Tatar alongside them. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (three playoff goals), center Josh Anderson and Paul Byron, who has the prettiest goal of the postseason so far. Corey Perry, who asserted himself in more ways than one in the series against Toronto – by inadvertently injuring John Tavares and scoring a goal in Game 7 – skates on the fourth line with Eric Staal (trade acquisition) and Joel Armia (four playoff points). Staal, who became a disappointment after the trade deadline, scored four points in six playoff games. Advantage: Also Defense: The Jets’ blue line is by far the thinnest position on the team. Top scorer Josh Morrissey has seen his performance on the ice decline this season. His team with Dylan DeMelo did their best against the McDavid line in the first round. Derek Forbort and Neil Pionk were a more effective duo than the Jets’ top defenders during the regular season, as Pionk led Winnipeg’s list of defenders with 32 points in 54 games. Tucker Pullman and Logan Stanley complete the group. The Canadiens relied solely on their four best defenders to carry the team. Shea Weber (25:36 average ice time) and Ben Chiaro (24:49) and Jeff Petrie (24:37) led the team in ice time with Joel Edmundson (21:13). Brett Kulak and Erik Gustafsson formed an underutilized second forward line, and defenseman John Merrill was not on the lineup. Advantage: Montreal Goalie: It was expected that goalie Connor Hellebuyck would have to be the Jets’ best player in most games to beat the Oilers. He lived up to expectations with a 4-0 record, .950 save percentage and 1.60 goals against average. Against Montreal this season, he has a 6-3-0 record with a .916 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average. All those NHLPA polls that say Cary Price is the goalie the players want most if there’s a Game 7? Now they’re all confirmed. Price had a .932 save percentage against Toronto in the win over the Habs and was the best player in Game 7. There aren’t many goalies in the league that can count on the Jets’ goalie advantage. This is one of them. Advantage: Also Play for $9,000 during the NHL postseason! Make your choice Coaching: Jets coach Paul Maurice surprised the Oilers by changing tactics early in the series against Edmonton, using a collapsed defense and leaving McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scoreless in the first two games. A smart, experienced coach who knows his team well and gets the best out of them. Interim coach Dominique Ducharme deserves credit for making some changes to the lineup and motivating the team after a 3-1 defeat against Toronto. But we note with some irony that the Canadiens essentially won the series by playing the way their fired coach Claude Julien would like to see them play: lining up defensively on the blue line and collapsing around Price. Advantage: Winnipeg Health: Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu underwent surgery on the 2nd. in April of an operation to remove a torn labrum in her shoulder. His recovery is expected to last until the summer. Montreal defenseman John Merrill will miss two weeks with a first-round injury. Jonathan Drouin is still absent for personal reasons and nothing is known yet about his return. Advantage: Winnipeg Special orders: During the regular season, the Jets had the seventh-best power play (23.0%) and the 13th-best free throw percentage (80.5%). They stopped the Oilers in the first round of the series by taking nine of 11 power play chances, no mean feat. Montreal scored 3 of 19 power play goals in the first round, all of which came in the last two games of the series. In the regular season, they were 17th in the NHL (19.2%). In the first round, the Canadiens significantly improved their minority play: Toronto reached the minors after 3:23 minutes and 87% of the game. In the regular season, it was 78.5%. Advantage: Winnipeg Selection of the range : Jets on 6. I have nothing against the job Montreal did destroying the Maple Leafs in the first round, but the Jets are healthier, more balanced offensively, and most importantly, they have a stronger playoff mentality than the Leafs. It won’t be easy with the Habs. You’ll get more exploits from Price and others. But the Jets didn’t give up and took the lead.
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