No. 4 Canadiens at No. 3 Jets
7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
Stanley Cup Second Round, Game 1
The Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets begin the Stanley Cup Second Round at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday.
The Jets haven’t played since May 24, when they eliminated the Edmonton Oilers with a 4-3 triple-overtime victory in Game 4 of their best-of-7 first-round series. The Canadiens rallied from down 3-1 in their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 3-1 win Game 7 on Monday.
“The rhythm and routine of playoff hockey, if you get into it, can be a huge advantage,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “So I think they do have that early in this game … and we’re going to have to steal it from them.”
Montreal raised its emotional level in the first round and proved its resilience by winning three straight games. Forward Corey Perry said that kind of engagement will help them against the rested Jets.
“Everybody knows we’re coming off Game 7,” Perry said. “They’ve been sitting around waiting, so we have to match the intensity and be ready. I think we have a good group in that dressing room that realizes where we are.
“You get in a groove. We had the same day we would normally have yesterday. And then today our morning skate, then away you go again, so things don’t change for us. Yes, it’s a new series, a new team. But for us, we just focus on ourselves and things will take care of themselves.”
For the first time this season, there will be fans inside Bell MTS Place. The Manitoba government approved up to 500 fully vaccinated healthcare workers to attend Game 1 and Game 2 on Friday.
Here are 3 keys for Game 1:
1. Goalies finding grooves
Connor Hellebuyck of the Jets (1.60 goals-against average, .950 save percentage) and Carey Price of the Canadiens (2.24 GAA, .932 save percentage) are coming off strong performances in the first round.
“If it’s a patient game, I don’t think either one of them looks like they get out of control at any point,” Maurice said. “They’re completely focused on the game and in control.”
Hellebuyck made 38 saves in a 1-0 overtime win against the Oilers in Game 2 and 37 saves in Game 4 to clinch the series. Price allowed six goals on 109 shots (.945 save percentage) to win the final three games against the Maple Leafs.
“Carey Price’s numbers and longevity tell you everything you need to know about his play, so two great goalies for sure,” Maurice said. “It’s the lead story, understandable, because both teams got here the same way, and both will have a plan to try to find an edge.”
2. Changing opponents, maintaining identity
The Canadiens need to double their focus on their game of quickness and strong forechecking.
They have not had much time to adjust their plan, so keeping a clear picture of what they do best will be a top priority against the Jets.
“Our identity, we want to play fast,” forward Nick Suzuki said. “We want to play as blocks of five, coming up the ice together. I think when we get away from that is when we struggle, and when we’re at our best, when we’re moving the puck well, we’re a close, tight-knit group on the ice. So we always have to find ourselves and get back to that.”
3. Bring experience to bear
The Jets have won three best-of-7 series in the past four postseasons, including a run to the 2018 Western Conference Final. It’s the most of any team in the Scotia North Division.
Captain Blake Wheeler said it’s about staying even keeled and maintaining a tight focus.
“I’m excited to still be playing,” Wheeler said. “Obviously the first round was very exciting, and we made some good memories in that first round. But this is a whole new ballgame, a whole different team, a whole different scenario. It’s going to be a grind. We’re looking forward to seven games of just slugging it out. If we do a good enough job, maybe we’ll have an opportunity to move on. We’re not looking past tomorrow.”
Canadiens projected lineup
Jake Evans – Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli — Nick Suzuki — Cole Caufield
Paul Byron — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Josh Anderson
Joel Armia — Eric Staal — Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot — Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak — Erik Gustafsson
Injured: Artturi Lehkonen (upper body)
Jets projected lineup
Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers — Paul Stastny — Pierre-Luc Dubois
Andrew Copp — Adam Lowry — Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault — Nate Thompson — Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey — Dylan DeMelo
Neal Pionk — Derek Forbort
Logan Stanley — Tucker Poolman
Scratched: Ville Heinola, Sami Niku, Jordie Benn, Kristian Vesalainen, Jansen Harkins, Dominic Toninato, Eric Comrie, Mikhail Berdin, David Gustafsson, Cole Kehler, Joona Luoto, Dylan Samberg, Marko Dano, Nelson Nogier, CJ Suess
Injured: Nathan Beaulieu (hand)
The Canadiens are expected to use the same lineup from Game 7 of the first round. … The Jets held an optional morning skate. … Stastny did not skate Tuesday or Wednesday but is expected to play.