Game 2: Montreal 5 Winnipeg 1 (MTS Centre)
MONTREAL, QC. — Those of you who talked to me before the game know that, in my opinion, a meeting with the Jets was exactly what the doctor ordered for a Canadiens team coming off an uninspired effort against the Maple Leafs. This was contrary to the view that the Habs would be mowed down by a team propelled by 15 years of pent-up prairie passions. Some fans were willing to yield a victory to the Jets as some sort of penance on behalf of the league.
But with the spotlight focussed squarely on the return of Winnipeg to the NHL (rightly so), the Canadiens were allowed to fly under the radar — not the usual treatment for a team followed so rabidly by media and fans alike.
It was all so festive. Winnipeg’s head coach was fondly recalling memories of watching the Canadiens on TV when he was growing up in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.
“I was a big fan. I used to sit in front of the TV with a bobble head of the Montreal Canadiens and I remember listening to the French announcer…It was great. Bobby Rousseau, Jacques Laperrière and Jacques Lemaire.” — Claude Noel
Conveniently the Habs assistant coach, Perry Pearn, was able provide a personal perspective of the Jets departing Winnipeg for the desert. Pearn was behind the bench assisting Jets head coach Terry Simpson during the 1995-96 season.
“Everybody knew it was the final season but still, at the end, the people were absolutely devastated by the fact the Jets were leaving.” — Perry Pearn
Even Ryan White, a fourth-line injured player, found himself on the ‘desired interview’ list. White hails from Brandon, Manitoba.
“It’s tough when you’re not going to be playing in that game and you had that one circled on the calendar from Day 1. That’s the way it goes. I’m excited to get there sooner or later and play in front of that crowd.” — Ryan White
While the Montreal media was busy seeking out an assistant coach and a press box player for Winnipeg-related quotes, head coach Jacques Martin got off easy avoiding three days of questioning about a dismal power-play and a lack of offense. Similarly, P.K. Subban was able to avoid scrutiny of his sub-par performance against Toronto. The Canadiens were simply an afterthought given the historic significance of the game for the Jets.
The usual pressure for the Canadiens to perform for “home fans” in a road arena was also absent. Check back at the end of December when the Habs return to Winnipeg and you are assured of seeing several thousand wearing Habs jerseys. But not on this day.
So what I saw from the NHL schedule-maker was a gift to the Habs. The burden of having to wear the loss to the Maple Leafs was gone. Being loose was a huge advantage especially in the super-charged environment of the MTS Centre that included at least one billionaire, a Commissioner, and a Prime Minister.
And just when it seemed that the combined energy of 15,004 fans would will the Jets to score, the cowboy, at home in the West, calmly snuffed out any threat. In doing so, Carey Price gave his teammates a jolt of confidence, and they did their part contributing single goals from five different players.
The Jets played along, looking nervous on such a big stage, and commiting turnovers. The Canadiens transition offense requires a willing dance partner, and Winnipeg proved to be the perfect match. The Jets defense had a particularly rough afternoon — can you say Oduya — reminding us that it is the same franchise that missed the playoffs by 14 points last season.
While Montreal shots were finding nothing but blue uniforms during the season opener, shooters were channeling their inner sniper in this game. Three goals in the third period by the Habs turned a close game into a thrashing.
The Canadiens sick bay added two patients. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek suffered a rib injury after being hit hard into the boards by Evander Kane. Mike Cammalleri received a skate laceration above his knee and is expected to be out about two weeks.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price: He provided the saves and the leadership. Price was superb in this game with 30 saves.
▲ Tomas Plekanec: He was one of the most disappointed Canadiens after the opening night loss. Plekanec seemed most determined to leave Winnipeg with a victory. He had a goal and two assists.
▲ Yannick Weber: For the second game in a row, Weber began the game as a forward but finished it as a defenseman due to an injury. To his credit he was the best rearguard on the ice, with a power-play goal and an assist. Weber was strong in his own end winning puck battles from larger forwards — Nik Antropov can attest to that.
▲ Travis Moen: He was also the recipient of additional ice-time with the loss of Mike Cammalleri. Moen had a goal and an assist.
▲ Alexei Emelin: It was a solid NHL debut by the defenseman. Emelin had a first period with mixed success but got stronger as the game went on. He was allowed to play through his mistakes given the injury to Jaroslav Sapcek. With regular ice-time Emelin is poised to easily vault over Rafael Diaz on the depth chart. Diaz was unable to handle Winnipeg forwards and was victimized by Antropov leading up to the lone Jets goal.
▼ David Desharnais: He centered the only Canadiens line to have a minus-rating on the day. Desharnais continues to be ineffective on the power-play having difficulty getting to the front of the net. Desharnais struggled at the faceoff dot winning only four of 11 draws, and seems destined to be bumped to the fourth line when Lars Eller makes his season debut on Thursday night.
The Canadiens will have Monday off for Thanksgiving. Preparations will begin Tuesday for the Habs home opener against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
All Habs game stars
1. Carey Price
2. Tomas Plekanec
3. Yannick Weber
4. Travis Moen
Category: Game review