No one expected this kind of run from this team. The Montreal Canadiens were the No. 4 seed in the Scotia North Division, a division made up solely of Canadian teams. Montreal only amassed 59 points in the regular season, compared to Winnipeg’s 63, Edmonton’s 72, and Toronto’s 77. And yet, the Montreal Canadiens are the last Canadian team in the 2021 Playoffs. The Canadiens came back to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. Then the Canadiens swept the Winnipeg Jets. They won Game 4 in Overtime 3-2 on Monday night. Montreal holds second place in NHL history for the longest stretch without trailing in the Playoffs. They currently stand at 437.53 minutes. Coincidentally, the only better streak was from the 1960 Canadiens, who hold the record at 488.38. But that streak looked in jeopardy in the second period of Game 4.
Canadiens Attack First
The Jets had some good chances in the first few minutes, but Carey Price was playing like his usual self and shut down the Jets. Then it was the Canadiens’ turn to attack, but Connor Hellebuyck looked like he brought his A-game. On the powerplay, the Canadiens passed it left to right. Nicholas Suzuki passed it to Erik Gustafsson at the blue line. Gustafsson faked a slapshot and then moved past the sprawling defender. He blasted a shot off the post and in, putting the Canadiens up 1-0. As the clock trickled below one minute remaining in the first period. Brett Kulak slung a shot at the net. Artturi Lehkonen was in front of Hellebuyck, and he deflected it perfectly into the net. The Canadiens appeared in control, but the Jets refused to go down so easily.
Stanley shows up in Stanley Cup Playoffs
One of the reasons fans love the NHL Playoffs is there are always unexpected heroes and goal scorers. Logan Stanley, the 23-year-old Winnipeg defensemen, is one of those scorers. In the regular season, Stanley only had one goal in 37 games. In one period, he doubled that production against Price. Kyle Connor kept the puck in and passed it to Jordie Benn. Benn passed it to his defenseman partner Stanley, and Stanley skated to the left faceoff circle. As he got to the hash marks, he snapped a shot that beat Price’s short side off the crossbar. Stanley scores again, tying the game. Great shot from the right side, blasts it home. Four minutes later, Connor caught a pass from Mason Appleton and entered the offensive zone. Coming off the bench, Stanley skated in alone on the far side. Connor got the puck to Stanley who slapped the one-timer home, beating Price again short side, this time on his glove.
Overtime Clinches the Series
After the two early goals, Hellebuyck played amazing, stopping 39 shots, and pushing the game to Overtime. As has been the case for most Overtime games this Playoffs, it ended quickly. Only 1:39 into Overtime, the Canadians ended it. After a scrum in the right corner, Cole Caufield got the puck out and skated to the net. Tyler Toffoli emerged from behind the net, and Caufield fed it cross-ice to Toffoli. Toffoli buried it, and Hellebuyck had no chance.
What’s next for the Jets
When the Jets surprised the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, they were expecting to make a longer run in the Playoffs. The Canadiens ended that run, and now the Jets must consider retooling. They have a good core, but some older vets in Paul Stastny, Nate Thompson, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Jordie Benn. All those players are 30 or over, and there are many more 28-year-olds, including Hellebuyck. Overall, they have a good defensive core, and Logan Stanley showed promise with this two-goal outing. They could use some young talent at center and wing. Especially right wing, as their only two right wingers are Little and Wheeler, both over 33. Look for the Jets to make some moves during the NHL Draft to get some draft picks or prospects
What’s next for the Canadiens
What most people took away from the Canadiens’ first-round series against the Maple Leafs was the Maple Leafs’ colossal collapse. But seeing the Canadiens dominate the Jets like this, it’s time to take this team seriously. Carey Price is still an incredible goaltender. He can turn a game’s momentum by a save at any point. Price is posting a 1.97 goals-against average, and a .935 save percentage. But this time, Price has backup. Players like Tyler Toffoli, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, grizzled vet Brandon Gallagher, captain Shea Weber, Nicholas Suzuki, and Joel Armia. Not to mention older players who have been here before like Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Tomas Tatar, and Jeff Petry. While the Canadiens wait to see if they will face the Avalanche or the Golden Knights, they can be confident they can hang with either team.