WINNIPEG - Usually when a playoff series starts in June, it is for all the marbles; the Stanley Cup. For many fans, this matchup is better.
The Montreal Canadiens have a huge following in Winnipeg. Since we didn’t have pro hockey in Winnipeg until 1972, that’s quite understandable for older hockey fans, and they passed that love to their children, and then grandchildren. The Habs have had a significant impact on Winnipeg, in the late 1970’s, Montreal’s ownership unwilling to carve up the hockey TV revenue pool, tried to block the Jets from joining the NHL. Once the Jets did get in, many memorable match-ups took place including Tuxedo Night in December of 1979. The Canadiens were the Jets first regular season opponent when Winnipeg rejoined the NHL in 2011. The two teams have never met in the playoffs until now.
Both teams weren’t given much of a chance to advance past the first round. Both defied the odds. The Jets got absolutely dominated by the Oilers during the regular season going 2-7-0, but then in the first round, they swept Edmonton. Montreal were also dominated by the Leafs during the regular season going 4-6-1. Both teams showed grit in the first round of the playoffs, the Jets batted back and won three games in OT, the Canadiens also won two OT games and overcame being behind 3-1 against the Leafs.
As we all know after the first round, the season series means absolutely nothing when it comes to playoff hockey.
The Jets won six of the nine meetings against Montreal during the regular season, but three of those victories came in three-on-three overtime, so the Canadiens were 3-3-3 in the head-to-head competition. Both teams have Vezina Trophy winning goalies (Hellebucyk 2019-2020, Price 2014-2015). Jets had a slight edge during the regular season on the Power Play (23.0% vs. 19.2%) and the Penalty Kill (80.5% vs. 78.5%). On paper, it’s a pretty close match-up. But it won’t be.
The Jets have had a good rest after disposing of the Oilers last week while the Canadiens barely have had time to pack before heading West. Both teams are on a roll, but I think Winnipeg now is firmly in control of their own destiny and won’t make many mistakes. This one will be another sweep. Jets in 4.