The Winnipeg Jets will face the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the first post-season meeting of these two clubs.
Both overcame the odds to win their respective first round outings.
The Jets are coming off a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. They allowed just eight goals against in four games and confined Connor McDavid to four points.
The Canadiens took care of the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. They rallied with straight wins to seal the deal with a 3-1 win Monday. They held Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews to a combined one goal in the series.
Winnipeg has the advantage of rest going into this series, with nine days off prior to the start of the second round. They didn’t end their regular season on a high, going 3-9-0 to close things out. They didn’t have Pierre-Luc Dubois for Game One against the Oilers and were without Nikolaj Ehlers for the first two games.
But they swept Edmonton out of the picture in a series that was tighter than it might seem. Three of the four games went to overtime and Winnipeg’s 4-1 victory was based in part on two empty-netters.
The Canadiens still have their work cut out for them, however.
Coming off a big win against Toronto has exceeded expectations for Montreal in ways too many to count, but this is a formidable squad. Tyler Toffoli led in first round scoring with five points in seven games, including two goals and three assists. And Phillip Danault, tasked with shutting down Matthews and Marner in Round One, will be back for more of the same against the Jets.
Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele logged big ice time against the Oilers, often skating against McDavid and Co. and playing in rough areas. He collected five points in the series, including two goals and three assists, and finished a plus-two despite tough assignments.
Goaltending was huge for Montreal against the Maple Leafs. Carey Price posted a 2.24 goals against average and .932 save percentage in the series. Sure, he was aided by the Canadiens’ team defence and its steadfast ability to hinder Toronto’s zone entries. But Price was playing at top form in the first round and there’s every reason to expect he’ll be a factor in Round Two.
Connor Hellebuyck was equal to the task in the Winnipeg net. His presence will set up a great duel in the crease with Price. The 28-year-old has a 1.60 goals against average and a .950 save percentage, with one shutout in Game Two. He was helped greatly by the Jets’ determination in the lanes against Edmonton. They led all playoff teams with an average of 20.19 blocked shots per 60 minutes.
Scoring balance is the story of the Jets, with 10 different players coming up with goals against the Oilers. They’ll hope to carry that balance against the Canadiens, who can press back with the same forecheck that throttled Toronto’s top stars.
Pic: Graham Hughes/Canadian Press