Game Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs Winnipeg Jets
With P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty on the sidelines, the Habs are in tough against the Jets tonight, but can they impress us again like they did against the Devils?
We sent some questions over to Trevor Maughn of Arctic Ice Hockey to get to know the Jets a bit better, here are his answers:
1) After all the controversy over nothing in the offseason, Evander Kane is off to a wicked start for the Jets. Good thing I took the heat off of him with my own money phone. How do you see this season unfolding for Kane? Are there still cries from media guys to trade him, or is everything happy while he dominates?
It's column A, column B with Kane. There are still members of Winnipeg's media who take subtle jabs at Kane when the opportunity presents itself, but it's hard to knock a guy who is currently among your leading scorers and has helped the Jets to a 3-1-1 start.
Fans, for the most part, have been happy -- at least for the time being. That could change if he hits a rough patch as fans and media alike tend to get too wrapped up in single game outcomes rather than keeping things at full perspective.
2) After getting cut by a Czech league team and a DUI in the offseason, Ondrej Pavelec has been solid to start the year to say the least, how long do you see it lasting?
If he can continue to play sound fundamentally, Pavelec could put up career numbers this year.
No one can deny Pavelec is a uber-athletic, hyper-flexible netminder. The problem he runs into has been overplaying his angles and taking himself out of the play. I don't know when the light-switch clicked between October and now remains unknown.
Furthermore, if the Jets plan on using Pavelec in more than 40 appearances, I don't expect the same success in mid-April.
3) Both the Canadiens and Jets are on 3 game winning streaks heading into their match, and the Habs dominated the Jets last season. What do the Jets need to do to beat the Habs?
The cliche answer is to get a good start. The Jets have been slow out of the gates on multiple occasions this season and sooner or later it will catch up with them.
Having said that, if they take the body early and often and wear down Montreal with their cycle game, they will put themselves in a position to collect valuable road points tonight.
After defeating three teams in a row that they played horrible against last season, the Canadiens face off against a team that they curb stomped three times as a basement dweller in 2011-12.
We've been looking for Lars Eller to have a breakout game this season, and it could be tonight that we get it. Eller blitzed the Jets for 4 goals and 5 points last season in a single game, easily the top performance of any Habs player last season. Can Eller breakout from the wing? It remains to be seen, but another game of improvement from Erik Cole could get him there.
Andrei Markov has yet to face the Winnipeg Jets in his career, breaking into the NHL after the Jets had moved to Phoenix, and not playing last year until the 4 game series against them was over. Markov will surely be eager to expand on his 3 game goal streak that has him netting 3 straight game winning goals.
The power behind the Jets' offense last year against the Habs was 6'5" Blake Wheeler, who's off to a nice start this season with 5 points in 5 games. In fact all of the Jets top offensive producers are off to really nice starts, with a trio of players over a point per game including Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tobias Enstrom. Bryan Little also has 5 points in his first 5 games.
The struggling players for the Jets are their secondary scorers. Olli Jokinen has managed one lonely assist in 5 games, and prized prospect Mark Scheifele hasn't been able to do much of anything in 3 games played.
Ondrej Pavelec was a severe weakness for the Jets last season, putting up an .854 save percentage over 4 games against the Habs, but he's had a great start as well, with a .932 save percentage in 4 starts.
Outside of Lars Eller, the most dangerous Habs in the season series last year were Tomas Plekanec, who put 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games, and Travis Moen, who scored once and added 4 assists.
Look for some scoring out of the top line of Rene Bourque, Plekanec, and Brian Gionta, who fired and insane 27 shots at the net against New Jersey (12 hit Brodeur) and came up empty. Odds are that many shots on Pavelec will result in at least one goal.
Game time is 7:30PM EST on RDS and TSN-Habs