Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens’ first game against the Winnipeg Jets ended on a bad note with a vicious play by Mark Scheifele on Jake Evans after he scored the empty-net goal on his 25th birthday.
Coach Dominique Ducharme said that Evans is doing better today, but will be out indefinitely with a concussion. All our thoughts are with Evans and his family, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Now, let’s focus on the positive in that game. The Montreal Canadiens won Game 1, after coming off a huge momentum from their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re now on a four-game winning streak, which seems so unusual in a season where they could barely win two games in a row. But it’s the playoffs, right? Anything can happen.
The Montreal Canadiens’ offence looked good, as they had some incredible chances. Their defence looked even better in my opinion. We saw both Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson trying to score and setting up goals in front of the net (and not from the blue-line), and that’s not something we see every day.
There was no doubt that this Jets team was a bit rusty, after not having played a game for over a week, but it’s also obvious that the Habs are becoming better. If they can keep it up, who knows where it might take them.
We saw Edmundson skating into the offensive zone, taking his time with the puck, trying to set up a goal with Corey Perry and Eric Stall in front. And we all saw how that went, it resulted in Staal scoring his first goal of the playoffs.
Later on, we also saw Weber on a breakaway. No, this is not a mistake. Weber was on a breakaway, shot the puck on Connor Hellebuyck, and Brendan Gallagher came in after Weber and scored on the rebound. That’s not something we see every day. Not the Gallagher part, that everyone is used to, but the fact that Shea Weber was on a breakaway and went to the front of the net to shoot the puck.
Other than these two unusual but amazing plays, the Canadiens’ defence has been exceptional. Ben Chiarot comes to mind, as well. He’s been playing top minutes with Weber, and they have both been playing great. The same goes for Jeff Petry and Edmundson. These top four defencemen have been amazing in the playoffs, and although it’s true that Carey Price plays a big role in the Canadiens’ success, I’d say they’re almost just as important as he is.
Now for the third pair, I honestly don’t know what to think. While I was extremely confused as to why Alexander Romanov wasn’t playing, when I saw Rasmus Sandin with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it made more sense. Ducharme would rather play the top four and have the third pair play a little, than let Romanov play and maybe make a rookie mistake that could cost them the game. After all, playing a rookie defenceman is a bigger risk than playing rookie forwards, and if it’s not a risk Ducharme is willing to take, then so be it.