[UPDATE: Scheifele has been suspended for four games.]
Toward the end of their shocking surge from down 3-1 vs. the Maple Leafs, the Canadiens really clamped down defensively. After Game 1, it looks like the Jets might struggle to solve the Canadiens in the same way the Maple Leafs did.
Thanks in large part to a strong start (and a sluggish one from the Jets), the Canadiens won Game 1 5-3 to take a 1-0 Second Round series lead.
It’s difficult to pin too much on Connor Hellebuyck, or explain it away as Carey Price dominating. Price made some great saves, no doubt, but this felt more like Montreal taking advantage of its superior team play.
Winnipeg needs to find some answers with Game 2 on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA Network).
Game 1 ends with brutal Scheifele hit on Evans
Speaking of answers, the Department of Player Safety might need to find some after a brutal Mark Scheifele hit on Jake Evans after he scored the empty-net 5-3 goal.
Evans head hit the ice awkwardly following that Scheifele hit, which drew a charging major penalty and game misconduct. Following that hit by Scheifele, Evans left the ice on a stretcher.
Scheifele doesn’t appear to have a suspension history at the NHL level.
Evans suffered a concussion and will be out indefinitely. “He’s certainly going to miss time, we’re not sure how much time,” said Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme.
Canadiens pounce on sleepy Jets in first period of Game 1
Was it rust? Could it just be how the Canadiens stack up against the Jets?
Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens began Game 1 on a roll, taking advantage of a sleepy Jets start. Both teams made some early mistakes, Winnipeg just made more of them.
In building a 3-1 lead through the first period of Game 1, the Habs almost made it look easy. You can bet some people were making jokes at Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ expense (and probably Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs’ expense at times, too).
The prettiest example of making it look easy had to be this Nick Suzuki 3-1 goal:
Missed opportunities, and few created
Things slowed down considerably during the second period. Most obviously, neither team managed to score a goal. Beyond that, the two teams cut down on their mistakes and clogged things up after there was some unusual playoff open space.
Did that change of pace really improve matters for Winnipeg? Maybe not. Through the first two periods, the Jets only managed a single high-danger chance at even-strength.
Truly, Paul Maurice & Co. might kick themselves for squandering opportunities that might end up harder to come by as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs go on.
The Jets generated one goal on special teams — but it was shorthanded. Otherwise, they didn’t manage to make this contest more manageable despite receiving three of the first four power plays. At least one of those calls simply aren’t the penalties you normally draw from whistle-shy playoff officials.
Game 1 of Jets – Canadiens featured more scoring from defensemen than expected. Even just early on.
Points from #GoHabsGo defencemen:
1st Period: 4
Entire 1st Round: 2
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) June 3, 2021
So maybe it’s fitting that Winnipeg received a brief burst of life thanks to unexpected offense from a defenseman?
Derek Forbort beat Carey Price midway through the third period to make it 3-2. That didn’t last very long, though, as Brendan Gallagher punched in a rebound from a Shea Weber chance to restore a two-goal Montreal lead. (That 4-2 goal came on a Habs power play.)
Heading into this Second Round series, the expectation was the Canadiens would hog the puck but struggle to finish. Meanwhile, the Jets might suffer with weak underlying stats but feed off of quality-over-quantity.
Even if that’s the blueprint, the Jets need to produce some quantity, or the Canadiens could make short work of them.
JETS VS. CANADIENS – series livestream link
Game 1: Canadiens 5, Jets 3
Game 2: Fri. June 4: Canadiens at Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET (USA Network)
Game 3: Sun. June 6: Jets at Canadiens, 6 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Mon. June 7: Jets at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
*Game 5: Wed. June 9: Canadiens at Jets TBD
*Game 6: Fri. June 11: Jets at Canadiens TBD
*Game 7: Sun. June 13: Canadiens at Jets TBD
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.