The Canadiens passed the first part of their playoff litmus test on Thursday

One game down, and the Canadiens made a massive statement in it.

The Montreal Canadiens have defied expectations all year, and at every turn there has always been another hurdle that fans and media expect them to jump over.

They won without Carey Price, they won with him being bad, now they’re winning and he’s incredible. They won when Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin were on fire, and when they slumped. They won without Shea Weber, and now they’re winning with Shea Weber. Every little challenge tossed their way they’ve handled.

After running roughshod over the Oilers and Ducks, last night the Canadiens started a four-game stretch against the NHL’s best.

First up was the Winnipeg Jets, and from the opening minutes it was clear the Canadiens weren’t intimidated by the league’s third-best team. An early Mark Scheifele goal on a counterattack could have taken the wind out of Montreal’s sails, but this team just went down the ice and scored to tie the game.

From there they grounded the Jets’ attack entirely, and piled on four more goals in the process. Jonathan Drouin continued his hot streak by posting his third straight multi-point effort, while Phillip Danault quietly piled up four points on the night. The offence overshadowed what was another fantastic start by Carey Price as well, his seventh straight win, where he was quietly dominant, late goal aside.

The Jets were supposed to be a stern test for the Canadiens on Thursday, and they had their moments, but as a whole they were trampled on the Bell Centre ice. Fifty-three shots for Montreal is a lopsided domination, and the Jets are no pushover — they went to the conference finals for a reason last year.

If this series of games was meant to serve as a litmus test for the Canadiens’ playoff readiness, they passed the first part with flying colours. Coming up next is the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a win for the Habs can vault them over their rival in the standings. Now to bring the same effort on Saturday night with bigger stakes on the line.

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