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Canadiens vs. Jets: How to energize a playoff series in 60 minutes

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It feels like déja vu all over again... again.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Montreal Canadiens at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

If the first round of the playoffs reminded me of 2004 and 2010 despite key differences, Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets reminded me of another past playoff series: 2013.

That series was the first playoff matchup between Montreal and the Ottawa Senators. The two teams had played each other as divisional rivals but never really developed a hatred. Montreal had Toronto historically, and playoff battles with Boston seemingly every other year. Ottawa had developed a Battle of Ontario rivalry with Toronto, but there wasn’t that animosity with the Canadiens.

That all changed in the first game. Eric Gryba hit an unsuspecting Canadiens player coming into his own that year. The hit led to a suspension.

The Gryba hit on Lars Eller changed everything. After that, you had a coach named Paul blaming the Canadiens, and the intensity between the two teams was rarely the same.

See where I’m going with this?

Like 2004 and 2010, it’s not an exact comparison. Mark Scheifele is not Eric Gryba. The Canadiens won Game 1 in 2021, unlike in 2013, and they were also the heavily favoured team. Nobody on the Canadiens equated Paul Maurice to a marine mammal (at least not yet).

The similarities are there. Like the Gryba hit, the Jets rallied around their player. Maurice called the hit clean, and the Jets social media channels featured it in a highlight package.

For the Canadiens, any questions about how they were going to get back into that desperation mode after an emotional series comeback against the Maple Leafs went out the window. They are now engaged, and they know the best way to get revenge is to make sure Scheifele, serving a four-game suspension, doesn’t play another game this season.

Of course, playing for a fallen teammate doesn’t guarantee any particular result. The Canadiens lost in 2013 in five games, while the Maple Leafs playing for John Tavares obviously didn’t use that to rally themselves to victory. However, the flip side to that is that the Jets will be missing their top centre as well.

Montreal also has something that neither the 2013 Canadiens or 2021 Maple Leafs had after one game: A 1-0 series lead.

Both teams will have something to play for in Game 2. Montreal is looking to take a stranglehold back to the Bell Centre. Winnipeg needs to avoid a huge hole, to show why they swept the Edmonton Oilers, and ensure they extend their season long enough to get a boost when Scheifele returns for Game 6 or for the next round.

One thing is for sure, the emotion that may have been lacking for most of Game 1 will be there in Game 2.