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Game Day Preview - Winnipeg Jets vs. Montreal Canadiens - will the Jets Break the Sound Barrier at the Bell Centre?

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The Winnipeg Jets have been one of the NHL's hottest teams, with the fourth best record in the NHL for the last 10 games played (7-1-2). Can the Jets take another step toward the NHL's top echelon teams, with a win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight?

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens have the fourth highest point total (21) in the NHL right now. They could be regarded as one of the NHL's top teams.

However, like the Jets, the Canadiens have done it by winning close games. "Les Canadiens" are 4-0 in shootouts. They are actually worse than the Jets in terms of goal differential - minus 5 compared to the Jets' minus 2. Even though "the Habs" are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, they've been like a student who studies just enough to pass the exam. Prior to their last game (a 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild), they hadn't won a game in regulation or overtime for 6 straight games. During that stretch, they also lost 3 games by a wide margin (i.e. by 3 goals or more).

In this sense, both teams have a lot to prove to their fans and critics in tonight's game.

Game time is 6:30 Central time. You can watch it on TSN3, or listen at 1290 TSN.


Thoughts


Winnipeg Jets

Get on the right side of the game - and stay there. I realize this is an obvious comment, but the Winnipeg Jets have an overall record of 2-7 against Montreal in the first three seasons of "Jets 2.0". Over these years, the Jets have lost 5 of those 9 games by a wide margin (3 goals or more). The Jets will likely need to follow their "ugly win" recipe for success, with strong team defence, good puck control, and solid goaltending. Good news - the last meeting of these 2 teams was a 2-1 victory for the Jets at the Bell Centre in Montreal, under new head coach Paul Maurice, last February.

Play hard. It's a fact that the Jets are one of the tallest, heaviest, and youngest teams in the NHL. According to coach Maurice, they're also one of the fastest teams. "PoMo" has deliberately coached this team to play hard. We saw that well-executed game plan last Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Jets can bring that "take no prisoners" approach to every game - including tonight's road game - they look like they can be successful on most nights. Their 8 game streak - unbeaten in regulation - attests to this.

Special Teams need to be special. The Winnipeg Jets' penalty killing is fourth best in the NHL. Yes - fourth best in the league. Do you remember that there was a time when the Jets' PK was dreadful? I'm thinking of the first half of the strike-shortened season, less than 2 years ago. (Sorry - I realize now that you were trying not to remember that). But right now, Winnipeg is 4th best! And, if the Jets are also going to be 4th highest in minor penalties taken, then they need their PK excellence to continue. And the Jets might have found their legs on the power play too, with a 30% success rate in their last 3 games, and with half of their goals (3/6) coming on the power play during that stretch (excluding the empty net goal against Nashville). In the modern, low-scoring NHL, the special teams' success is a massive advantage.

Montreal Canadiens

If you haven't already, check out the interesting Arctic Ice article by HappyCaraT, on her informative interview with Habs super-fan Laura Saba, on our home page.

The Price is right - or is he? As Carey Price goes, so do the Montreal Canadiens. Often, he is the difference in the hockey game. If there was any doubt about this, last years' winter Olympics settled it. But - Price seems to have been off his game lately, with a plebeian .910 save percentage in his last 5 starts, including 3 games in which he allowed at least 3 goals. Conversely, their back-up goalie, Dustin Tokarski, has played very well in his last 2 starts.

Season of discontent? The Habs' inner sanctum appears to have had at least one headache - and put him on waivers. If Rene Bourque isn't claimed, he will be sent to the minors - $2.5 million contract and all. Is this sending a message to the rank and file Canadiens, to get their game in order? (Jets, take note - this can be done with higher salaries. Just saying.)

Puck control. This is a bright spot for "Les Canadiens". Despite their recent mediocrity during regulation, they've outshot their opponents by 5 shots per game (average for their last 7 games). So, between Carey Price' excellent adventure, and a 4% shooting percentage during that time, their puck luck is like the saying, "if they didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all." They're probably due for some good bounces. Just not tonight, please.

Prediction

Winnipeg Jets win 3-2, in overtime. The Jets will continue their "ugly hockey" formula for success, with some solid forechecking. Both teams will get some lucky bounces, offensively. The Jets will use their speed to garner the OT winner.

Player to boo

"Ca-rey" Price. If your spouse is checking on you, with a worried look, you may be chanting a little too much.