Game 8: Montreal Canadiens vs. Winnipeg Jets
How to watch
Game 8: the conclusion of the first tenth of the season (give or take 0.25 games). By this point, trends and patterns should start appearing, meaning that observers can start forming a picture of what a team is and isn’t.
The Montreal Canadiens are a rollercoaster ride.
In the past seven games, The Habs have been everywhere from exceptional to putrid. At times, they have looked like a well-oiled machine; at others, they have looked like X (formerly known as Twitter). At 5-on-5, the Canadiens are world-beaters: thirteen goals for to five against. On special teams, the picture is decidely bleaker: six power play and one shorthanded goals for, ten and two against — a net differential of minus five. The cherry on top though is their performance thus far against an empty net: four goals allowed, and only one shot attempt for.
Nonetheless, they sit with a 4-2-1 record, ahead of expected contenders such as the Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, and tonight’s opponents, the Winnipeg Jets.
Getting here has been very much a team effort for the Canadiens. Every skater bar Johnathan Kovacevic and Gustav Lindström has at least one point. Twelve players have two or more. Ten players have scored at least one goal. The first few games were dictated by the newcomers — Alex Newhook and Tanner Pearson have already made their mark — but the core duo of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki have started to rise to the top as of late. The Canadiens’ captain has quietly put up six points in seven games, while his partner-in-crime has boldly and loudly proclaimed his presence to Montreal, the league, and beyond. Nine points in seven games, seven in the last five, and two overtime winners.
Cole Caufield is declaring himself as one of the league’s elite goal scorers.
|48.3% (20th)||Scoring-chances-for %||54.4% (5th)|
|3.14 (14th)||Goals per game||3.43 (12th)|
|3.29 (20th)||Goals against per game||3.43 (24th)|
|20.7% (14th)||PP%||14.8% (21st)|
|73.0% (25th)||PK%||74.1% (21st)|
|1-0-1||Head-to-Head Record (22-23)||1-1-0|
If the Canadiens are a rollercoaster, the Winnipeg Jets are doing their best impression of the swan boats. The team has been treading water for the last several years as time whittles away, floating somewhat aimlessly as division rivals Dallas and Colorado speed away from them. Patrik Laine is in Columbus, Pierre-Luc Dubois is in Los Angeles, and Blake Wheeler is on Broadway. The team now belongs to Mark Scheifele, Josh Morrissey, and Connor Hellebuyck, and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff drove this point home by handing Scheifele and Hellebuyck matching seven-year/$8.5-million AAV contracts this offseason. We know whose feet are on the pedals, but can they beat the current?
Cheveldayoff’s moves have not been met with optimism by the media or the fans. The Athletic questioned the wisdom of doubling down on an elite goaltender on the south side of age 30: “Hellebuyck’s timeline doesn’t line up with the Jets’ at all…for this deal to make actual sense from the team’s perspective, the Jets need to be contender status during the first couple of years of it. But Winnipeg doesn’t look anywhere near that.” The fans, on the other hand, have been voting with their feet. The Jets did not sell out their home opener and drew only 11,136 for their most recent home game.
Despite the skepticism, Scheifele and Morrissey have been living up to their ends of the bargain on the ice. The two are tied for the team scoring lead with Kyle Connor at seven points. They’ve been backed up by Mason Appleton (5 points), Alex Iafallo (4), Nino Niederreiter (4), and Cole Perfetti (4). This scoring punch has allowed Winnipeg to rack up eight points despite a somewhat pedestrian start for Hellebuyck (.899 save percentage). To put things in perspective, both Samuel Montembeault (.901) and Jake Allen (.924) have better numbers than Hellebuyck despite facing harder workloads. The Jets have allowed the same number of goals as the Canadiens, which is not where a contender wants to be.
Both teams are coming off victories — Winnipeg went into Detroit and put an end to the Red Wings’ six game point streak, while Columbus’ cannon was no match for Caufield’s howitzer. Montreal will hope to use that energy to string together back-to-back wins for the second time this season.