The Montreal Canadiens have won the North Division! Capped off by a Tyler Toffoli OT winner, the Canadiens sent the Winnipeg Jets home courtesy of the series sweep.
With the Jets heavily favored in the series just like the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens took to the ice and shut down the Jets in just about every aspect of the game. From the opening game where they took Mark Schiefele off his game and effectively out of the series to game 2’s stellar goaltending performance by Carey Price, the Canadiens never had to look over their shoulder. In fact, not once in the short series did the Canadiens trail on the scoreboard. Even on the penalty kill, the Canadiens were on the charge netting 3 shorthanded goals and surrendering no powerplay goals to the Jets.
The Canadiens are firing on all cylinders and then some. The acquisitions made by Marc Bergevin have all paid dividends here in the postseason. While the criticsm was harsh and and largely justified around the time former coach Claude Julien was let go, the team found a way to stay in the playoff hunt and have kicked into a new gear since entering the postseason. Earlier in the season, the moves seemed to make Bergevin a frontrunner for the GM of the Year award and now we are seeing the payoff.
Tyler Toffoli who was essentially stolen from Vancouver’s mismanagement has been outstanding all season and has led the way this postseason with 10 points through the 11 games. Corey Perry and Eric Staal have added the Stanley Cup champion experience any team would clamor to acquire. Perry for instance has been largely visible in all areas of the ice and his veteran presence which has shown previously with Dallas to be a huge addition to a team has been on full display here. Simply put, adding the Stanley Cup caliber players has made a tremendous difference to this roster. Add in the trade deadline move of Erik Gustafsson which was absolutely highway robbery, Bergevin has had a magic touch with this team. The dynamic rookie entrance of Cole Caufield continues to add to the allure of this team while the other young guns of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi add a dynamic punch of depth which is vital to any team’s postseason success. Then you have Carey Price who has turned the clock back and has been lights out. Bergevin adding Jake Allen to give a viable backup option to Price has without a doubt helped keep him fresh and rested for the postseason gauntlet.
From here, the Canadiens will face either the Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights where they will be the largest underdog to date this season. What we do know with the team is the cylinders are firing throughout the lineup from top to bottom. If each aspect can continue to produce and be effective in all areas of the ice and Price continue his performance, the Canadiens have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. One key area of interest depending on the opponent is the shutdown of scoring which has happened between Vegas and Colorado. Both clubs have had their woes of the top players scoring at times throughout the postseason. Both clubs also have run their goaltenders heavy through the tougher schedule as neither team had a truly viable backup option for the majority of their seasons. If the Canadiens can pull another Toronto series and drag this one out to 6 or 7, it could make for a very interesting ending and an upset of the sure fire Stanley Cup favorites.Embed from Getty Images