It's an unlikley Round 2 playoff matchup few were expecting.
In tonight's Game 1, the Winnipeg Jets anxiously await the Montreal Canadiens, who are coming off a remarkable Round 1 upset over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. In that series, the Canadiens bounced back from a 3-1 deficit and won the best-of-seven series, shocking the hockey world and probably even surprising themselves.
Meanwhile, the Jets pulled off a stunning sweep of the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers, winning 4 games to none – also which no one was expecting. Although most of those games were close and went down to the buzzer (3/4 games went into OT), Winnipeg showed they deserve to be where they are as slight favourites to advance past Round 2 and make it into the semi-finals as Canada's lone entry into the NHL's "final four."
Winnipeg is -130 to beat Montreal in the series and advance. For those like the underdog, Montreal is +110.
The Jets have been off for more than a week, which leads to a big question – will they be rested or rusty? No doubt, their opponent the Canadiens are "in the zone" at the moment, winners of three straight high-pressure playoff games, and playing their best hockey of the season. Still, we have to wonder about the possibility of fatigue and perhaps even a bit of an emotional letdown for the Habs. Though the stakes are higher in Round 2, rekindling the focus the energy of the prior series could pose a challenge.
Here are the Game 1 odds from SPREADS.CA, which has a full list of alternative lines and propositions.
Odds dictate that Winnipeg will take Game 1 tonight playing at home. However, Montreal is used to the role as a dog and even seems to thrive when least is expected.
Rest vs. Rust
The well-rested team playing an opponent coming off a full seven-game series has a precedent.
A similar situation happened a few nights ago when the Las Vegas Golden Knights played the Colorado Avalanche. The Golden Knights had a tough seven-games against Minnesota and had just two days between the series – while the Avs enjoyed plenty of rest after a 4-0 sweep. Concerns that Colorado might have some rust, Las Vegas's high energy would carry over into Game 1 were erased by a 7-1 finale, won easily by Colorado.
Winnipeg's last game was May 24th. One suspects they're probably surprised by drawing Montreal. The team likely began mental preparations for the Maple Leafs once it appeared they'd be the next oppponent. So, there's even some late adjustment here for the Jets at facing the Canadieans.
Battle of Goalies
That leads to a battle of goaltenders and trying to indentify who, if anyone, has the advantage.
Stats from the 2021 season look pretty much even. These teams obviously saw a lot of each other during the regular season. Carey Price (Montreal) went 12-7 with a 2.64 GAA and .901 SV% in his starts this season. On the opposite end of the rink, Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) was 6-3-0 with a 2.67 GAA and .916 SV% (including one shutout) in his nine regular-season appearances vs. Montreal.
The Jets have won six straight. That includes the final two games of the regular season, followed by the playoff sweep. They are also a perfect 4-0 in the past four matches at home.
Montreal hasn't been nearly as consistent. The Canadiens are 6-15 in their past 21 games following a win. That's a very poor record and shows a history of letdowns. Even more of a concern – Montreal is just 3-6 in 2021 against the Winnipeg.
Clearly, the Jets are favoured in Game 1 for a reason and probably deserve to be a bigger favourite for the series than the -130 odds they're laying.
The Jets should take the ice with great anticipation and lots to prove. They'll certainly go into Game 1 feeling confidant at facing a team they've defeated in 7 of 1o tries. We also can't put much faith in Montreal to continue playing at the high level we've witnessed the last three games. Their opponent imploded, and the Habs took advantage. That won't happen with Winnipeg.
Slight lean to the UNDER in Game 1, but the lay price of -145 is a bit high. Instead, the value is probably on a side and the Jets at -140. A healthy, confident, well-rested, favourite playing at home is a solid pick at that number.
Final Forecast: Winnipeg 4, Montreal 1
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