The Winnipeg Jets are rolling up on the end of the season. With a handful of games left, it’s time for the Jets to consolidate their post-season standing and get prepped for the playoffs. Brushing up on some winning ways against a potential playoff opponent like the Montreal Canadiens is a good way to start your end-of-season run. Without captain Blake Wheeler, the Jets opted to make a few changes to the line-ups. The result against Montreal was...interesting, to say the least.
The First Period
The game kicked off with an absolute bang less than a minute in, with Mathieu Perreault spearheading an early rush into Montreal’s zone. He spied Morrissey cutting in towards the slot and fed Josh a perfect pass. Morrissey went top shelf to give the Jets one of their earliest leads of the season. Whoa! There’s something you don’t see often. Less than a minute later, Montreal responded in kind, with Phillip Danault burying a shot on a busted Winnipeg defensive sequence. Logan Stanley appeared to chase the puck-carrier to an already covered space and left Danault unmarked on the left flank. The mistake was harshly punished, but didn’t appear to live in Winnipeg’s memory for too long.
The Jets retook the lead a few minutes later on an excellent counter from Forbort and Pionk. Derek hit Pionk with a great cross-zone pass, and Neal sped up the ice with Trevor Lewis. Pionk dished a gorgeous feed across to Lewis, who deflected it past Jake Allen. Nikolaj Ehlers then decided he wanted to get his name on the scoresheet too, and burned a Habs defender near the slot before ripping one home. Montreal tried to create chaos down low with point shots and perimeter attempts, but the quality of chances was decidedly poor. Winnipeg did enough to keep the Habs away from Hellebuyck and, despite an imbalanced-looking shot clock, neutralized much of Montreal’s threat.
The Second Period
The Habs were notably more dangerous in period 2, especially after the Jets decided to take several penalties. Winnipeg’s penalty kill is always a sore spot, and it looked as bad as ever on a variety of slot chances from the Habs. Hellebuyck had to work especially hard on the second penalty kill, making some unbelievable goal-line stops with his pads while the Jets PKers looked a bit dead in the water. Thankfully, no harm, no foul, and the Jets retained the 3-1 lead.
Hellebuyck determined he had to make things interesting, and gave the Habs a lifeline after leaving his net to play a puck. Instead of bouncing off the wall and dropping in the trapezoid, the puck bounced forwards and right in front of the empty net. For some reason, not 1 Winnipeg skater was there to clear the situation. Paul Byron saw his chance and steamed towards the puck to grab a remarkably easy goal. Montreal wasn’t creating much at even-strength, so it’s especially annoying to concede a fluky goal like this with a 2-goal lead. At least the Jets didn’t give anything else up!
The Third Period
Name a scarier couple than Winnipeg and 1-goal leads. I’ll wait. If you actually came up with an alternative answer, you and I can no longer be friends. The Jets, after all, seem to hate having a 1-goal lead, so much so that they’ve blown these leads time and time again. Few things fill me with more existential dread than Winnipeg being ahead by a narrow margin.
Thankfully, the Habs just weren’t that great. Montreal tried shooting from every angle that wasn’t directly in front of Hellebuyck, and even when they got to the slot, the American netminder devoured the puck. Things got dicier once Allen was pulled, but Andrew Copp put the game to rest with an empty netter. Winnipeg emerged victorious 4-2 in what I would call a fine enough game. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but the Jets got the job done.
Winnipeg did enough without Wheeler.
I don’t know if this effort from the Habs is much to go on, but the Jets were mostly fine without the captain. The forwards were capable and Mathieu Perreault was all over the place. Please keep feeding him more ice-time, Maurice.
Morrissey-Poolman really struggled...again.
This pairing just doesn’t have enough in the tank to handle defensive shifts. Poolman, in particular, struggles with rapid decision-making. He can skate with the puck and join the rush, but in his own end, is a bit of a mess. Poolman’s mistakes gave the Habs more than a few OZ possessions. It’s time to swap him with DeMelo.
It’s time. You know it. I know it. Make it so. This is my TED Talk, thanks for coming.