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It has been a long time since the Montreal Canadiens had a regular-season winning streak as long as their current five-game run. Oddly enough, it came the last time the Habs were vying for a top spot in the draft lottery, stringing together five of the 29 wins they had in the 2017-18 season. As far as winning streaks at any stage of an NHL season, you just have to go back to the 2021 playoffs to find one even longer as they swept the Winnipeg Jets to ride into the Stanley Cup Semifinals on a seven-game run.
That ended up being a forgettable series for the Jets, but the lasting impression was a vicious hit by Mark Scheifele on Jake Evans after the Habs forward sealed Game 1 with an empty-netter. Scheifele was suspended for four games, missing the final three of the series and the first one of this season.
Winnipeg is the final of the 31 opponents Montreal will face in 2021-22, with a game to come in April at the Bell Centre to finish off the season series. This first game finds neither team in a position to return to the post-season, and trending in opposite directions.
Tale of the Tape
|45.9% (26th)||Scoring-chances-for %||50.0% (17th)|
|2.28 (31st)||Goals per game||2.91 (17th)|
|3.74 (32nd)||Goals against per game||2.98 (18th)|
|12.3% (31st)||PP%||20.7% (15th)|
|74.4% (30th)||PK%||76.6% (23rd)|
|4-0||H2H Record ('21 PS)||0-4|
The Jets lost four games in a row before finally getting a win versus the current last-place team in the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes, on Sunday. The toughest of those losses was to the Dallas Stars, as the four-point-swing game helped to put Winnipeg six points back of fifth place in the Central Division.
The Jets get a do-over on that loss when the Stars head to the newly named Canada Life Centre on Friday for another important battle, but before that, the team would be best served by not dropping another two points to the Canadiens tonight. That will be a tough task given the way the Habs’ offence has been operating, and how the Jets’ goaltending has been faltering.
Winnipeg was doing well enough in the opening months of the season, holding a .550 points percentage on the last day of 2021, but that number has sagged to .478 in their 23 games since. That drop is mirrored in the numbers of Connor Hellebuyck, who went from a .914 save percentage down to .909, and that’s resulted in nearly half a goal more against per game than he had been averaging.
Hellebuyck has now lost three games in a row, whereas Eric Comrie has three consecutive wins in his starts, so a team desperate for a win may have to ride the hot hand of the backup. Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis is quite confident that either one of his options could backstop his team to victory, but this start will likely fall to Samuel Montembeault whose most recent performance was the first shutout of his NHL career.
The goaltending turnaround is just one of the positive stories on the Canadiens’ roster. Cole Caufield, who began to put his post-season play together versus the Jets last year before really exploding in the next round, is back to that confident, productive player once more and a threat to score every time the puck gets in his vicinity. The defence is markedly improved from even a few weeks ago thanks to Jeff Petry’s return to form, and now Joel Edmundson is rejoining the team on this road trip, finally gearing up for his first game of the season at some point in the near future.
The one puzzle that remains unsolved by St. Louis and his coaching staff is the power play. He has made changes to get his top offensive players on the ice more on the man advantage, but the goals still haven’t come. The Habs scored one power-play goal in the new coach’s debut and none since. During this five-game winning streak, the Canadiens have a total of four high-danger scoring chances, mostly attempting to set up the red-hot Caufield on the left side of the ice. The solution will probably involve the other players being more selfish to force opposing teams to focus on more than just the rookie, and that should have the effect of opening up Caufield for more of the “where did he come from?” goals that he was famous for in his collegiate career.