Game seven of the season brings Les Habitants à la MTS Centre. It’s a talented and dynamic club that comes to town, ranked 8th in goals for, and 5th in goals against on a per game basis.
It’s the first meeting of the season, but if you believe in the power of laundry, it might worry you know that the Canadiens have dropped just one game against the Jets since the move – a December 22, 2011 shutout by the Jets. The three-year total sits at 6-1 in favour of le CH.
When I think of le bleu, blanc, et rouge, I can’t help but think of history. The history of hockey is rarely well considered, particularly in Canada where national ownership over the game presents a false unity among us. You can’t blame us, really. Time degrades passion, and so from one generation to the next, collective memory is reduced to ritual.
But les Canadiens represents a present and lasting division in Canada, a still tender tension played out today more gently than in decades passed. This is a franchise that has won 23 Stanley Cups. Twenty-three. And for as long as Le Grande Club has been winning Stanley Cups, English Canada has been downplaying the success of the club as era dependent or racketeering within a crooked old-boys club, or worse, taking French heros as our own.
No doubt, the speed, flourish, and coiffure of Guy Lafleur down the wing has given way to the aging Daniel Briere, helmet on, his career tinged with the colours of other laundry. Serge Savard now watches PK Subban spin through the neutral zone. And the net that once was filled by Jacques Plante now has Carey Price between the pipes. These men are excellent hockey players – certainly good enough to beat the struggling Jets – but it will take a Stanley Cup or four before they begin to fill out their sweaters.
Of course, Montreal is more than the history of a hockey club. I know they took a chartered or private plane into town and disembakred in suits. But I can’t help picturing Les Habitants taking on an even earlier form of French tradition. I picture wiry, bearded men portaging into Lake Winnipeg like so many coureur des bois.
Let’s hope they’re tired.
- Kane – Little – Wheeler
- Ladd – Scheifele – Frolik
- Tangradi – Jokinen – Setoguchi
- Wright – Slater – Halischuk
Same group as game 6 against a much worse Devils’ squad. Kane continues to shine, but couldn’t shake Wheeler from his funk. Zone entries show Wheeler is not entering the zone with control, which is something he excelled at in seasons past. He’s a player with a much higher ceiling, and the Jets need his altitude to climb.
I’m no fan of Thorburn or Peluso, but Halischuk is not an obvious improvement so far. On a personal level, I much prefer his skillset as a speedy, opportunistic forward. But his ability to drive the play in the right direction has always been lacking, and he’s a cast-off with a two-way contract for a reason. He’s always scored more than expected, but he’s not the two-way forward the Jets need him to be in this role, and he and Wright are getting badly beaten at even strength. Both are sub-40% corsi players on the year.
The Jets have had an unusual start to their season. Three wins, each by unlikely scores. Three loses, all mystifying in their completeness, in their lack of any measurable scrap of success. The future of Claude Noel is taking front and centre as the Jets talk about effort in a system that is plainly failing against Western conference opponents. A quick and skilled Montreal team with puck movers on the back-end is a new challenge for the Jets – one that may play into their preference for a vertical hockey game.
- Enstrom – Byfuglien
- Bogosian – Trouba
- Stuart – Postma
Pav draws in after Montoya’s shutout. The coach knows his man, and he’s sticking to him. The Trouba/Bogo pairing is the best the team can cobble together for that second unit, but Claude Noel saying it’s not a long-term plan is as much ominous as it is ridiculous. That Mark Stuart remains in the lineup – even that he remains a Jet – is evidence this team doesn’t do much planning. He might as well have said what we’re all thinking – it’s not ideal, and it’s worse if there’s an injury, but who knows what management will do about it.
Last season we had calls for Buff to be traded, calls that were renewed when Trouba arrived in camp this year. So far, he’s our best defenceman in spite of his walk-about ways. He and Enstrom are the only defencemen playing more in the offensive end than their own, and are two of three players creating offence consistently. Enjoy them, Winnipeg.
- Pacioretty – Eller – Gionta
- Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
- Bourque – Desharnais – Prust
- Moen – White – Briere
Montreal has a bit of a split personality at forward. Bourque and Pacioretty, Prust and Moen – a season ago Erik Cole was in the mix as well – these guys exist to create space for Desharnais, Gionta, Gallagher (fiesty as he is), and Briere. They moved Cammalleri to get bigger, but Gallagher played his way onto the team last year and Briere was signed in the off-season and suddenly the group looks a little like a Fat-Medium-Skinny on every line.
Nevertheless, it’s a team with a lot of talent. A 29% powerplay, 3.4 goals per game, three players with 7 points in just 5 games. Struggling as he is, Daniel Briere is on the 4th line. The Jets don’t have two full lines of players playing up to expectations right now, and Montreal has enough talent anywhere in their lineup to take advantage.
Moreover, they dominate at 5v5, owning the league’s 4th best percentage of shot attempts for vs shot attempts against, and averaging a second best shots for per 60 minutes of 5 on 5 hockey. It’s a deadly team for the Jets.
It’s not all rainbows for the team, of course. The team is only 3-2 despite a +7 goal differential (+5 at even strength), and Patches is a team worst -2. They dropped a surprise game against Calgary, and lost their opener to the rival Leafs. The lines continue to be re-made, and the team has early injury trouble with Emelin, Drewiske, and Murray all sitting, plus Parros who continues to suffer concussion symptoms.
Canadiens Défenseur et Guardien de but
- Markov – Subban
- Gorges – Diaz
- Beaulieu – Boullion
The defencemen they do have in, though, can move the puck. Subban is the reigning Norris winner, and Markov has been a stellar defender his whole career in spite of injury troubles. Raphael Diaz won a spot in the lineup while filling in for Markov last year, in fact, scoring 14 points in 23 games. Gorges has the second best corsi% on the team (behind Subban) at 57%. That’s a number our top pairing reach in their best games. The third pairing is relatively weaker, but it’s not a strength for the Jets, so it’s hard to imagine it being an advantage.
Carey Price plays again tonight. He has a sparkling .929sv% so far this year.
- Get your pitchforks out. This one is going to be ugly. I’m predicting 65% corsi for Montreal, with all the lame giveaways, mixups, frustrating penalties, and would-be-breakouts-turned-scoring-chances-against that entails.
- Evander Kane gets another goal. He looks pissed even when he’s skating by the bench to celebrate.
- Mark Scheifele gets benched again, this time after just 12 minutes of ice time. The quicker Canadiens excel at finding space, and Scheifele freezes up. He’s a -2 in that 12 minutes.
- Mark Stuart is revealed to be a double operative. Claude Noel continues to play him on the penalty kill, saying "he must be good if he’s a spy." #Noelogic blows up on twitter.
- The Jets lose this one 5-1. Pavelec stops 30 shots and no one can be sure if it was a good game or bad one for him.
Worth Reading Today
- Don’t forget to check out Arctic Ice’s game day coverage
- And their fancy stats update
- Check in our Jets prospects