What do the Winnipeg Jets do now?
Perhaps more important to those of us betting this Jets-Canadiens' second-round playoff series – what do we do now?
There was some consensus in betting markets that well-rested Winnipeg would be ready for Montreal in Game 1. The Jets, who annihilated the Oilers in four games, enjoyed more than a week off while the Canadiens used every ounce of energy and went down to the wire in a thrilling 7-game series with the rival Maple Leafs.
However, the instant the underdog Habs took the ice in Winnipeg's Bell MTS Palace for Game 1, they were on fire. The red-hot Canadiens scored two quick goals in the first 5 minutes and posted a 3-1 lead after the first period and many of us who wagered on the Jets and layed -165 knew instantly we'd picked the wrong side – at least for the first game.
So, what does this mean for Game 2, which is to be played on Friday night? Should we overreact to Montreal's apparent preparedness for this series and obvious streak of momentum (a four-game winning streak), or instead double down and bet the Jets again thinking they'll now wake up and play playoff-level hockey?
It seems there's compelling evidence on both sides of the question.
Game 2 shows Winnipeg only a slight favourite at -120. The betting total is 5.5, shaded to the UNDER at -135.
That's quite a big drop from the opening game, which was Jets -165. In fact, this might even be too much of an overreaction.
One extraordinary value looks to be Winnipeg on the puckline (laying -1.5 goals) where the payoff is +225. If you think Winnipeg will rebound in Game 2, why not bounce back in a big way and win the game by more than a goal? The Jet's puckline is probably the best value here on the board, even if you don't have an opinion on the game. The Jets should be in sour mood after the 5-3 loss and they know this is the game where they need to step up.
Montreal's upset of Winnipeg in Game 1 was overshadowed in part by how the game ended. This intangible must factor into the Game 2 analysis.
In the closing minute, Habs' rookie center Jake Evans was going after a loose puck to lock up the game for the Canadiens when he was hammered by Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele near the net. The instant after Evans slapped the puck into the back of the net, he was leveled by Scheifele. That set off a wild melee that will have likely have some bad blood carry over into tonight's contest.
Evans was taken off the ice on a strecher. Meanwhile, Scheifele faces a four-game suspension for the brutal hit. That will certainly hurt Winnipeg. especially on offense, as Scheifele led the Jets with 63 points and 42 assists in the regular season.
Mark Scheifele will be missed, not only as a stick but as a fiery leader on the ice. Scheifele scored two goals and added three assists in the Edmonton series. He is the first-line center for the Jets, and it won’t be easy to replace his presence.
So, that means Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler must somehow step up and carry this offense while Scheifele is out. Connor has three goals and two assists this postseason, while Wheeler has two goals and three assists.
Montreal may be a team of destiny. The Habs are scoring at will, especially early in games. They've dictated the pace in each of their last four wins with solid leads in each game. Goaltender Carey Price remains just as big a key for Montreal as one of the best in the league. He has a 5-3 record with a 2.33 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Veteran Price also has a career 2.42 GAA with a .918 save percentage in the playoffs, and he often rises to the occasion this time of year.
That said, the pressure is now on Connon Hellebuyck on the other side of the ice. The Jets goalie has got to come up in a big way tonight or this playoff series might much shorter than anticipated. That's what we're counting on here with our Game 2 wagers.
Prediction: There are far too many conflicting factors to bet either side with confidence. Winnipeg should play better tonight, but they're also a man short on the front line with a key player on suspension. Accordingly, Winnipeg enjoys some value as the favourite of only -120 when they might have been closer to -165 had they won the first game. This looks like a market overreaction to one game.
The best value, not for the faint-hearted, is laying the goal with the Jets at -1.5. If Winnipeg plays up to their potential and reverts to the form we've seen from them this season, the odds look better than 2.25 to 1 that they will by a score of more than a goal. The Jets -1.5 at +225 is the big number that stands out.
The safer bet is to wager on the UNDER 5.5. After an explosive outcome in Game 1, look for both teams to perform better on defense. Connor Hellebuyck in the net for the Jets surely won't give up 4 (+1 empty net) goals tonight.
These recommended wagers are somewhat contradictory, but we'll play the Jets on the puckline and the UNDER and will count on Hellebuyck to come up big as the MVP in Game 2.
Final Score Forecast: Winnipeg 3, Montreal 1
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