One of the most unlikely teams to advance out of the first round of the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens stunned the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, erasing a 3-1 series deficit with a Game Seven win in Toronto.
After clinching Game One with an empty-net goal (which we’ll touch on again in a moment) for a 5-3 victory against Winnipeg, Montreal took a 1-0 edge in the series. After four straight wins dating to the last series, you can’t help but wonder if the Canadiens have what it takes to win it all.
Where Are Things?
The big takeaway from Game One was an ugly hit from Mark Scheifele on Jake Evans following Evans’ empty-net goal. With a one-goal lead and less than a minute to go in regulation, Evans picked the puck up and tried a wraparound into an empty net. He was successful in scoring, but Scheifele came careening into the zone to prevent the goal and unloaded a punishing hit on Evans, who was in a vulnerable position.
Scheifele was assessed a five-minute major for charging and game misconduct as well. He will almost certainly be suspended for the hit, and he’ll have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Thursday.
“It was a dirty hit, but the league’s going to take care of it,” Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “If he gets back in the series, we’re going to make his life miserable, but I think the league’s going to do a good job with that.”
Losing one of their captains and their top center in Scheifele for any length of time puts Winnipeg at a significant disadvantage for any length of time. Scheifele led the Jets in points (21 goals, 42 assists in the regular season) and played in every game. He is also tied for the team lead in playoff points with five.
Back to Montreal. The Canadiens played a complete team game in Wednesday’s win. Five different skaters scored a goal, and 12 of the 18 skaters scored a point. Eric Staal, Jeff Petry, and Joel Edmundson each contributed multiple points, providing the veteran leadership needed for a deep Cup run.
Carey Price was once again solid in net, keeping things 4-2 until Winnipeg scored with an empty net to cut into the deficit. Price stopped 27-of-30 shots in the win.
What Does the Path to the Cup Look Like?
The Winnipeg-Montreal series winner is guaranteed to get the winner of the Colorado/Vegas series. The final four teams will be re-seeded based on regular-season points. Colorado and Vegas tied with 82 points, assuring the winner of their series gets a No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
Both Winnipeg and Montreal finished lower in the standings than any other team.
With a 1-0 series deficit, the Jets are still the favorites to win the series. The online sportsbook lists Montreal at -105 to take the series while Winnipeg is -115. While these odds could change based on the length of any possible Scheifele suspension.
Furthermore, given that they would have to go through Colorado or Vegas, who both finished 23 points ahead of Montreal in the regular season, just to make it to the Stanley Cup round, the Canadiens’ Cup odds aren’t good at all and deservedly so. Montreal is +1400 to win the Cup, and they have the lowest betting odds of any team with an advantage in their series.