I’ve been dreading the upcoming schedule for Winnipeg, because the teams the Jets will now face are supposed to be a lot tougher than wailing on Ottawa, Edmonton, and Vancouver. At least, that’s what I thought a week or 2 ago. The Jets welcomed the Montreal Canadiens, a top contender in the North Division that just fired head coach Claude Julien. Would the Habs look like a team still in control of a top-3 spot, or would they prove my schedule fears unfounded?
The First Period
Off the hop, both teams looked like they’d prepared for a fairly scrappy affair. Shots from dangerous locations weren’t abundant and it took a bit of team before either squad started to find a rhythm. As the period wore on, the Jets actually looked like they’d find paydirt with good cross-seam passes near Carey Price. Unfortunately, a busted line change and poor blueline read from Nate Beaulieu gave Joel Armia an inside route to Hellebuyck. The former Jet did not miss and Montreal was up 1-0.
Winnipeg didn’t seem too fussed about the deficit and went back to work. Sadly, another neutral zone error saw Nik Ehlers misplay a pass into Paul Stastny’s feet. The puck bounced to Montreal and the Habs hit a vertical counter up the ice that caught Derek Forbort by surprise. Pionk was left to fend off a 2-on-1 and had little chance of stopping Armia from scoring his second goal on the night. This was a frustrating period because the Jets did deserve to concede, but they also should have had a goal or 2 of their own. They were playing decent hockey!
The Second Period
Thankfully, the second period allowed the Jets to mentally wipe the slate clean and start over. An early power play gave Winnipeg the exact chance it needed, and a chaotic sequence in Montreal’s net saw Kyle Connor poke the puck home to make it 2-1. The Jets continued to drive the tempo of the game but threw a spanner in the works on a penalty call. Montreal’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi absolutely victimized Beaulieu and hit teammate Tomas Tatar for an easy tap-in power play goal.
Sometimes, this has been enough to knock the Jets out of commission. Winnipeg, though, refused to concede defeat. Connor nabbed his second goal of the night off of a wonderful breakout created by Sami Niku. Sami was in his own DZ and found Nik Ehlers prowling around the neutral space at centre ice. From there, Nik did his thing and hit a tic-tac-goal sequence that’d make the 2017-18 Jets proud. Just a short bit later, captain Blake Wheeler added the tying goal off of a deflected wrister that Price never saw. Unlike previous efforts, this scoreline felt a lot more reflective of what the Jets deserved.
The Third Period
The final 20 minutes saw the Jets pull away and never look back. Montreal desperately tried to create offensive counters but found themselves running into aggressive counters at their own blueline. The tie-breaking goal ended up coming from the stick of Nate Thompson, who was left alone in front of Price while Lowry and Appleton grinded out a turnover behind the net. The Jets weren’t done, though.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, running rampant alongside Scheifele and Wheeler, hit a sharp angle feed into the net from Perreault. Mathieu’s pass is one worth seeking out the goal highlight video for. Scheifele added an insurance empty-netter to put this one away 6-3 in favor of the Jets. All in all, this was a strong team performance against a squad that’s given Winnipeg fits in the past. They’ll dance again on the weekend in what should be another rollicking outing.
Pierre-Luc Dubois is a monster near the net.
This dude has it all; great top speed, acceleration, strength, agility, balance, and soft hands. He showed some of his great power forward prowess against Vancouver. In this match-up with Montreal, though, he was constantly buzzing near Montreal’s slot. I’m not sure if the top left wing spot is the best place for him, but if it makes the top line effective again, I won’t complain.
Niku-DeMelo shined on the backend.
I’ve been one of the folks to argue that making the most of DeMelo requires an aggressive D who can transition the puck quickly. Niku, while flawed, best fits that description. All that said, I didn’t anticipate the Niku-DeMelo pairing being as good as it was tonight. It was the best blueline pairing out there, and ran over Montreal’s defensive structure up the ice. The Habs really didn’t get many offensive looks against the pairing either. More of this, please!
Beaulieu has to come out of the line-up ASAP.
This was probably one of Nate’s toughest games as a Jet. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. He was burned twice on extremely poor gapping/pinches, and consistently lost physical battles behind his own net. With Morrissey needing a helping hand out there, Beaulieu cannot be asked to play upwards of 20 minutes a night. I’m not even sure he can handle a 3rd pairing role at this rate.