Everyone here at HabsWorld is ecstatic that the Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs to advance to the second round. Especially so considering how many members in the sports media outside of Quebec predicted Toronto would win. Now the Winnipeg Jets are the next opponent, and our writers had many thoughts to share about the outcome of this series.
Montreal Canadiens vs Winnipeg Jets
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Canadiens in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Jets in 6 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Jets in 6 games
Tom Haapanen predicts: Canadiens in 6 games
Terry Costaris predicts: Canadiens in 7 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Canadiens in 7 games
Paul MacLeod predicts: Canadiens in 6 games
Allan Katz predicts: Canadiens in 7 games
(Norm) Since I was the sole writer on our staff to predict the Habs would win in 7 games, I thought I would “let it ride” and make the same prediction again. Much like the Toronto series, the Habs are the underdogs again. Although the Jets have the home ice advantage, I don’t believe that will be much of an issue since the Habs won three of their four games on the road in the first round.
This time the team face a Jets squad that is well-rested after they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in four straight games on May 24th. Although Carey Price gave some great, clutch performances, his opponent in Connor Hellebuyck is equally talented. The Canadiens defencemen should have an advantage over the Jets group in size and toughness. They will need that edge since the Winnipeg forwards are a bigger lot and play a grinding style. Montreal’s speed should be an advantage they can utilize, and they did not falter when playing against any of the larger Leafs forwards. This series could go back and forth and Montreal had a 3-3-3 record in head to head matches. When I consider those three overtime losses, the Habs struggled all regular season when they were in the three-on-three format. That is no longer a factor for them in the playoffs should they go into overtime. To me, it comes down to the Canadiens’ desire to win when it mattered most in the last three games of the Toronto series. Although I expect Winnipeg will win a few games, I foresee the Habs following that same strategy and determination from the first round to advance again.
(Brian) The Habs managed just two goals per game against Toronto and somehow managed to come out on the winning end of that series. They’re now facing a team with a better goalie. The combination of a pop-gun attack and a star goalie for an opponent is not an ideal one from Montreal’s standpoint. Yes, Winnipeg’s defence is worse than Toronto but they’re a deeper team up front than what the Leafs had by the end. (Be prepared to get frustrated with their third line which is way better than people give them credit for.) I can see this being like the Philadelphia series last summer where Montreal outshoots Winnipeg and wins the possession battle but their offensive struggles come back to bite them in some low-scoring games.
(Kevin) I find it interesting that the Habs and Jets are constructed somewhat similarly. The pivotal part of the defensive game lies in their above-average goaltending as Price vs. Hellebuyck is a promising matchup to include many low-scoring games throughout the series and really drives home the notion that offence wins in the regular season but defence wins in the playoffs. Both teams find their weaknesses on the blueline as neither unit inspires much confidence.
The biggest difference is up front. The Jets boast depth with size and skill. The Habs possess more of a variety of styles with their youth hopeful of becoming what the Jets are up front. What’s most interesting here is that if the Habs want success, they’ll have to change their strategy in a hurry.
If the game plan versus the Leafs was to play physically to get the soft Leafs off their game, that most certainly won’t be the case in this series. It will be the Habs who need to never mind that type of play and try to win with speed. I think Montreal’s defencemen are more capable of using their experience to overcome the Jets’ speed whereas Winnipeg’s back end can be flustered with this same strategy.
In the end, I think the Habs will understand this, but won’t be able to do it regularly because their back end simply isn’t mobile enough. Combine that with the crazy schedule (three games in four nights to start the series with the Habs tired and Jets rested) leads to a Jets victory in six games.
(Tom) This won’t be much like either Habs-Leafs or Jets-Oilers at all. The teams are fairly evenly matched in most departments. The Jets’ forward group can be deadly on the power play so it will again be important for the Habs to have the discipline to stay out of the box. 5-on-5, though, Montreal’s forwards should be a match for the Jets, and the defence quality is better, in spite of their relatively low-mobility defenders. Ultimately, if Carey Price can maintain his performance level from the first round, matching that of Connor Hellebuyck, the Habs should win this series.
(Terry) While I did say in the last Writers Weigh In article that it would not have surprised me if the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, I honestly thought that Toronto would finally have wrestled the first round losing monkey off its back on Game Seven. The law of averages were overwhelmingly falling in the Leafs’ favour. They’ve added a whole new dimension to the concept of jinxed franchises.
I do not say this to rub things in. There are many decent Leaf fans whom I personally know and admire who are absolutely crushed right this moment. As my late Father-in-law used to say, “never kick a man when he is down.”
I will be practicing radio silence with my Leaf fan friends for at least a month. They would do the same for me. Their wounds are very raw right now.
The Jets are not better than Toronto – so why not assume that the Canadiens can pull off this series as well? Yes, Winnipeg has the distinct advantage of plenty of rest, better forwards, and superb goaltending. But there is a weirdly good vibe going on with Montreal. One that I have not felt in years. Of course, everything can radically change with a few injuries. Every team right now is two key players away from either winning or losing a series.
For many Hab fans, including myself, we’ve already won our Stanley Cup and are now playing with house money. So, if I’m wrong and Montreal loses in four, no big deal. We still beat the Leafs.
(Naqeeb) For this series, managing the minutes for Montreal’s defence will be pivotal so having Weber-Romanov and Kulak-Chiarot pairings might provide Weber and Chiarot with more support for zone exits and better puck support options. They’re facing the likes of Scheifele, Wheeler, Dubois, Connor, and Ehlers; they’re top-heavy like the Leafs but they can play the playoff grinding style game and hem the opposing defenders in their own zone, the Oilers know what that’s like!
I think besides Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola, there are not many puck movers on Winnipeg’s back end compared to the Habs (Petry, Kulak, Romanov, and Gustafsson). They do have a heavy hitter in Logan Stanley, but overall the Habs’ defence and goaltending have an edge.
Special teams and faceoffs will be huge and getting to Hellebuyck early and often and not letting him get settled can give the Habs an upper hand in the series.
(Paul) The Canadiens, despite the fatigue and the time change, will ride an emotional high to victory in Game 1. My crystal ball is a little cloudy at the moment– probably a side-effect of me throwing it against the wall after Game 4 against the Leafs. But I think they will split the first four games before Montreal wins Games 5 and 6. Price is going to continue his run, Caufield is going to score and Romanov is going to finally make his long-anticipated playoff debut.
(Allan) It’s important when making predictions to take as scientific an approach as possible. So let’s look at different elements and see where we are. The Jets have a better offence and defence; other than that, they have nothing. Okay, they also crushed the Habs during the regular season.
At the end of the day if by some strange series of events and the Habs lose, at least they know they play in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. If the Jets lose they at least can be assured wherever they go in the offseason will be nicer than Winnipeg. For many of the fans, it’s even worse, even if they win they still LIVE in Winnipeg.
Montreal has Price in net and that’s worth something. I liked Montreal’s play over the last few games and it seems a lot bodes well for this team. Every game had its moments but there’s no doubt Montreal beat Toronto but let’s be real, the Jets also demolished the Oilers. These teams should make for a great series. I am sure the Jets are peaking but I think Montreal has not peaked yet and seems about to. I picked the Habs to beat the Leafs and I pick them to do it against the Jets 4-3.