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When the Montreal Canadiens met the Winnipeg Jets for the first time this season back on March 1, we were curious whether there would be any carryover from last year’s playoff series, specifically regarding how Mark Scheifele would be handled after he had forced Jake Evans to leave Game 1 on a stretcher and miss about two rounds of action, which earned Scheifele a four-game suspension.
Nine months removed from that incident, it was barely a story at all when the game began, as the Jets were much more interested in scoring goals. Before the first period had even reached its midpoint, they had put the puck behind Samuel Montembeault four times. The Canadiens responded with four goals of their own in a similar amount of time, then paid for some stick infractions by giving up another block of four goals, all scored against their penalty kill, to seal the result.
It was then that Scheifele got involved physically, taking on Chris Wideman with just over three minutes to play and sending both players off the ice with fighting majors. Josh Anderson wasn’t impressed with how Scheifele acted in the final minutes with his team having the win secured, hinting at more to come in this saga.
That won’t come to pass tonight at the Bell Centre, however, because Scheifele sustained what looked like a shoulder injury last night in a win over Ottawa, and is unable to play tonight. For the second consecutive season, he will be unable to play the final game of the schedule versus the Habs.
Tale of the Tape
|44.7% (31st)||Scoring-chances-for %||49.8% (17th)|
|2.60 (29th)||Goals per game||3.07 (16th)|
|3.79 (31st)||Goals against per game||3.10 (19th)|
|13.5% (31st)||PP%||21.7% (14th)|
|74.7% (28th)||PK%||74.9% (29th)|
Rather than getting any physical retribution, Anderson will have to do his damage on the scoreboard, and that’s something he’s already had success with as he scored three of the four goals in that comeback effort five weeks ago for his first NHL hat trick. Since that game, offence hasn’t come easily for him, however, with just two goals and three points total in the 16 games. Maybe facing the Jets is what he needs to reignite his goal-scoring.
Montreal’s biggest winger has been overtaken on the goals leaderboard by the smallest. Anderson’s 17 goals still rank third on the club, but another exceptional week sees Cole Caufield now up to 18, one behind Nick Suzuki. It seems inevitable that Caufield is going to hit the 20-goal milestone in his rookie year, and he may not be done there.
His production has been mirrored by Kyle Connor in the period of time since the Canadiens’ coaching change that sparked this run, both with 17 goals in 27 games. Connor’s latest goal came last night, standing as the game-winner.
That win was necessary for the Jets to hang around in the Western Conference wild-card race, but the four-game skid that it snapped will likely prove to be Winnipeg’s undoing. As it stands they have to jump over three teams to qualify as the eighth and final team, needing to make up seven points on the Dallas Stars in the final nine games to make it. HockeyViz currently has them at a 1.3% chance of making that happen.
Until that number hits zero, you have to expect interim head coach Dave Lowry will run with Connor Hellebuyck in net, even if he did play last night. The Canadiens don’t have much of a choice about who they send out this evening as Jake Allen is out with an injury, meaning the crease is Samuel Montembeault’s until Carey Price is able to step in for a game or two. Having given up seven goals to the Jets in the first game of the season series, Montembeault is probably eager for a chance at redemption for his worst performance of the year. Hellebuyck hasn’t exactly been a brick wall this season, either, so the only game on the calendar tonight could be another high-scoring affair.