It was a total takedown of one of the three or four teams predicted to be in June’s Stanley Cup final. The Winnipeg Jets scored the first and last goals of the game. Between them the Canadiens scored five time, piled up 53 shots on goal and owned the Jets on the game’s every meaningful level.
Game analytics confirm what was there for all to see. According to naturalstattrick.com the Canadiens had the puck 60% of the game. Of their 32 scoring chances, 18 were listed as high-danger compared to only 6 from the Jets.
Winnipeg is noted for being big and fast. The Canadiens made them look slow. Their speed forced the Jets into 33 turnovers (21 giveaways and 12 takeaways).
Was it only a week ago that we were we were bemoaning Jonathan Drouin‘s lack of attention to hockey details. After last Thurday’s overtime loss to New Jersey Drouin was legitimately roasted for a careless defensive failure that started the Devils’ comeback. Since then the Canadiens have played three games and scored thirteen goals. Drouin has points on nine of them (3 goals, 6 assists) including two goals, two assists against the Jets. Drouin’s speed was one of the reasons he was a high draft choice. This is the first time since his Montreal arrival that he has demonstrated that speed consistently over a prolonged stretch. It may be too soon to call last Thursday’s New Jersey game a career low-point but in the last three games we have seen just how good Drouin can be when his mind is on the job.
Drouin was the game’s first star; Phillip Danault was second and Brendan Gallagher third. The line combined for ten points. As I was watching their dominance of the Jets I was reminded of the chemistry of the Lemaire/Lafleur/Shutt line of the 70’s. In those days the forechecking of both Lemaire and Shutt opened up the ice for the immense scoring talents of Lafleur. Danault and Gallagher are performing a similar role for Drouin. Danault and Gallagher have always been there. The difference has been the upgrade in Drouin’s play.
Along with the Danault line, Shea Weber and Victor Mete were charged with handling the Jets top line. Weber scored his ninth goal of the season added an assist and was plus-4. Mete, who was also plus-4, really caught my eye. Along with playing a solid defensive game, his zone exits and rushes produced 3 shots on goal and one high danger scoring chance. Mete has now played in 94 career NHL games. He’s still looking for his first goal. Can’t be long now can it?
The story wouldn’t be complete without a Jesperi Kotkaniemi mention. He scored a goal in his fourth straight game giving him ten for the season. In another sign of the developing 18 year old Kotkaniemi one-timed a pass from Drouin for the Canadiens fifth goal. It was a hell of a shot, one of four he attempted on the night.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Not a hard-working night for Carey Price who posted his seventh consecutive victory. In the seven games he’s given up only ten goals. His save percentage in the seven game streak is .955.
….From the department of obscure stats – Kotkaniemi is the first 18 year old to score goals in four consecutive games since Calgary’s Sean Monahan during the 2013-2014 season.
…..Shea Weber has nine goals in his 31 games since his November return from injury. That projects to 23 goals in a full 82 game season.
…..With his second career four-point night, Danault has equaled his career high 40 points in a season with 27 games remaining.
….Danault‘s goal was the first this season scored by the Canadiens four-on-four. They had earlier given up six goals four-on-four.
….Fifty-three shots is a season high for the Canadiens. Previously they had 49 vs. Carolina Nov. 27th. The Canadiens lead the NHL in games in which they post 40-plus shots. This was the 14th time in 55 games..
The Canadiens have taken seventeen of a possible twenty points over their last ten games.
They complete their home stand against Toronto Saturday night in a battle for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs are a point ahead with two games in hand.
After that it doesn’t get easier. Next week they’re in Nashville Thursday, Tampa Saturday and Florida Sunday.