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Boring hockey can work

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Last night’s game didn’t make many new hockey fans, but it did the trick for the Canadiens.

Montreal Canadiens v Winnipeg Jets - Game Two Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images

Six wins, zero losses. That’s right, 6-0. Every day that I mow my lawn the Habs win. I didn’t mow before Games 2, 3, and 4 against Toronto, and look what happened.

The thing that I thought was so interesting last night was that the Montreal Canadiens didn’t have that torrid pace we saw against the Leafs, but they still managed to dominate the Jets with ease. Or, at least Montreal dominated throughout most of the game.

As per Natural Stat Trick, in all situations Montreal controlled 65.5% of the expected goals (xGF%) in the first period, 76.4% in the second period, then a measly 44.0% in the third. The old nemesis, score effects, seemed to rear its ugly head.

Score effects, as a reminder, are when a team clamps down defensively and doesn’t take risks in order to protect a lead. That seemed to be the case for at least the last five minutes of the third period. But now for something completely unexpected (or “different” if you happen to be a fan of Monty Python). I’m going to defend that decision in this instance.

As I mentioned earlier, the Habs controlled play without pushing the pace; a surprising feat for the team. Normally the only teams that can pull that off are the uber-talented ones like the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Montreal is a tired team. They played a lot to end the year and then went to Game 7 against Toronto. As much as it would be a lot more fun, not every hockey game can be played at 200 miles per hour. So the fact that they found a way to roll four lines and not expend every drop of energy ahead of a back-to-back is a good thing.

To drive home that point about equal ice time, the player with the most ice time was Shea Weber, and he only played 24:31.

The good news is that they didn’t really start to lock down defensively until the very end. That’s a huge improvement for a team that we’ve watched score exactly one goal in the first and try to win the game 1-0.

At the end of the day, the Habs looked like a Ferrari racing a Chrysler K-car. They didn’t need to put the pedal to the metal, and if your gas tank is low, then why risk it?

The only reason why this game looked close was Connor Helleybuck. The Montreal Canadiens would have scored a lot more goals if it wasn’t for a stellar performance in the Winnipeg net. The Habs’ expected goal total was 2.7; on an average goalie, on an average night, we may have seen three goals.

So, winning 1-0 isn’t the way that it would be drawn up on a chalk board, but between Hellebyuck and the Habs’ schedule, I’d say it’s not the worst outcome either. My only concern is that they are unable to find that incredible pace again if they ever need it. But last night, it wasn’t necessary.