No. 3 Winnipeg Jets vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens
Jets: 4-0 to win Stanley Cup First Round against No. 2 Edmonton Oilers; 30-23-3, 63 points in regular season
Canadiens: 4-3 to win Stanley Cup First Round against No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs; 24-21-11, 59 points in regular season
Season series: WPG 6-3-0; MTL 3-3-3
Game 1: Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)
The Jets and Canadiens will play each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.
Winnipeg advanced by sweeping the Oilers, allowing eight goals in four games and limiting Connor McDavid, the leading scorer in the NHL during the regular season, to four points (one goal, three assists). McDavid averaged 1.88 points per game this season.
The Jets eliminated the Oilers on May 24 with a third straight overtime win, coming in triple overtime in the second day of a back-to-back set, and are eager to get back into action.
“First you’ve got to probably fill the reserves, get rested, get ready, get right,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “That anticipation is coming. I think you can already feel it. And I think there’s confidence that we’ll be able to get to that emotional level. The longer that your break is, the more anticipation — I don’t think anxiety — but we’re close to needing a game here soon. Calm but ready.”
Montreal advanced by rallying with three straight wins against the Maple Leafs, winning 3-1 in Game 7 on Monday. The Canadiens limited the Maple Leafs’ top two scorers in the regular season, Mitchell Marner and Rocket Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews (41 goals), to a combined one goal in the series.
The Canadiens won’t get to enjoy it for long with one day between games.
“If we look at their season, at one point they were in the race for first (place) with Toronto,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “They were battling with Edmonton and then they dropped off late in the season and finished in third place. They’re a good team. They’re solid up front. They have lines that can generate offense, energy. Their defense is varied too with a good goalie, so it’s going to be a good challenge again and we’ll be ready when it begins.”
Jets: Mark Scheifele scored five points (two goals, three assists) and was plus-2 playing the majority of his time against McDavid in the first round. The center led Winnipeg this season with 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 56 games, his sixth straight season with more than 20 goals and his fifth straight season averaging a point per game or better.
Canadiens: Tyler Toffoli led Montreal with five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games in the first round. The forward is a shooter who has a knack for getting open and doesn’t need much time or space to produce, as evidenced by his Canadiens-high 44 points (28 goals, 16 assists) in 52 games in the regular season. Toffoli won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.
Jets: Connor Hellebuyck played a big part of the first-round sweep of Edmonton with a 1.60 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. He had a 38-save shutout in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 2. After winning the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL last season, Hellebuyck (24-17-3, 2.58 GAA, .915 save percentage, four shutouts in 45 starts) led the League in minutes played (2,602:49), shots against (1,335) and saves (1,223) this season. Laurent Brossoit (6-6-0, 2.42 GAA, .918 save percentage, one shutout in 14 games) will be the backup.
Canadiens: Carey Price was a major factor in their comeback from down 3-1 in the first round and finished the series with a 2.24 GAA and .932 save percentage. Price (12-7-5, 2.64 GAA, .901 save percentage in 25 starts) sustained an upper-body injury April 19 and did not play after that in the regular season but returned for the playoffs. Jake Allen (11-12-5, 2.68 GAA, .907 save percentage in 29 games) brings experience as the backup, having won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019.
Numbers to know
Jets: They tightened their game late in the regular season, allowing nine goals in their last five games, and had 101 blocked shots against Edmonton, leading the playoffs with 20.19 blocked shots per 60 minutes. The Jets converted at 30.0 percent on the power play the first round (3-for-10), after finishing at 23.0 percent in the regular season (37-for-161).
Canadiens: The power play was 0-for-14 in the first five games against Toronto but changed the momentum by going 3-for-5 in the final two. The Canadiens were outscored by the Maple Leafs 9-4 in the second period in the series and 8-4 in the third, but scored at key times, including in overtime in Game 5 and Game 6.
Jets: Adam Lowry may be their most unheralded forward. He draws the most difficult defensive assignments, including killing penalties, as the third-line center but drives a line (with Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton) that plays well on both sides of the puck. Lowry had the best shooting percentage of his NHL career this season (12.5 percent) and scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 52 games. He had two assists in four games in the first round.
Canadiens: Joel Armia has underrated skill and grit and the ability to capitalize on the smallest of errors. He had valuable offensive contributions in the first round with four points (two goals, two assists). The forward, who played three seasons for the Jets (2015-18) before being traded to Montreal on June 30, 2018, scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and was plus-10 in 41 games this season.
They said it
“I think going into [the playoffs] there weren’t a whole lot of believers in our team, but even through our struggles down the stretch I don’t think the belief in our locker room ever really wavered. We’ve gone through this year and for the most part we were really strong bouncing back from losses, coming back and generally winning the next game. … I don’t know if you’re catching teams by surprise. Everyone’s kind of geared up to play. … But as you move on, every team is capable of winning every night.” — Jets forward Adam Lowry
“We knew we could play against big players and everyone did his job. That’s how we won and [Price] was solid giving us a chance. And the [defensemen] were moving the puck. So really we have a lot of pride in that dressing room and definitely want to get more.” — Canadiens forward Phillip Danault
Will win if …
Jets: They continue to get balanced scoring after having 10 different players score their 14 goals in the first round. Their core players have playoff experience, with Winnipeg having reached the Western Conference Final in 2018. That will be important for Hellebuyck, who will need to be at his best.
Canadiens: They can impose a chaotic forecheck and force Winnipeg’s defense into mistakes. The Canadiens are effective when they play on their toes and force the issue all over the ice. If they can get leads, that will put considerable pressure on the Jets, who must solve Price.
How they look
Jets projected lineup
Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Paul Stastny — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp — Adam Lowry — Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault — Nate Thompson — Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey — Dylan DeMelo
Derek Forbort — Neal Pionk
Logan Stanley — Tucker Poolman
Scratched: Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen, Dominic Toninato, Jordie Benn, Ville Heinola, Sami Niku
Injured: Nathan Beaulieu (shoulder)
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
Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Ben Chiarot — Shea Weber
Brett Kulak — Erik Gustafsson
Injured: Artturi Lehkonen (upper body)