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NHL Playoff Series Preview: (3) Winnipeg Jets vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens

Elisha Twerski
Winnipeg Jets v Montreal Canadiens
Winnipeg Jets v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
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Winnipeg Jets vs. Montreal Canadiens Series Line and Stanley Cup Futures

Odds to Win Series: Jets -144, Canadiens +118
Odds to win Stanley Cup: Jets +1800, Canadiens +2400

Winnipeg Jets vs. Montreal Canadiens News, Analysis, and Picks

Two underdogs emerged from the first round of the North Division playoff bracket setting up an unexpected second-round matchup. Whichever team comes out on top guarantees themselves a spot in the semi-finals with longshot odds. Both teams rely heavily on goaltending, so this series depends heavily on which team will capitalize on their opportunities.

Winnipeg Jets Analysis: Can they overcome their questionable metrics?

The Winnipeg Jets had an underwhelming regular season. Of the 16 playoff teams, the Jets finished with the second-worst expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five and across all strengths. Winnipeg finished the season 23rd in the expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five with a mark of 46.5%. They carried those questionable metrics into the playoffs with them, finishing the opening round with a worse expected goals-for than they started with. The Jets ranked 15th with a percentage of 41.2%. Still, they managed to win four straight games as the lower seed and move on to the next round.

One of the biggest downfalls impacting the Jets' anticipated regression is their questionable road metrics. Winnipeg finished 30th in the league with a 43.5% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five. Again, their postseason metrics were worse than their regular season metrics, but they still managed to get past the Edmonton Oilers by sweeping them out of the first round.

The common factor is Connor Hellebuyck, who has almost single-handedly carried the Jets this far. Hellebuyck finished the regular season with the 92.5% save percentage on the road, exploding to 98.6% through two opening-round games. Hellebuyck has been outstanding, but his performance is nothing if not unsustainable.

The Jets may continue to increase their PDO and win games, but it's more likely that they fall back down to earth after overachieving by a substantive margin in the opening round.

Montreal Canadiens Analysis: 

The Montreal Canadiens relative metrics at five-on-five were only marginally better than the Jets. The Habs escaped their first-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs despite posting a 42.1% expected goals-for percentage. However, the difference between the Jets and Habs is that the Habs' PDO implies that they are progression candidates. Montreal posted a .994 PDO through the first seven games of the postseason.

Carey Price did his part by posting a 93.2% save percentage in the opening round, which is below each of his previous two postseason save percentages. Price finished the playoff bubble with a 93.9% save percentage and finished the 2016-17 postseason with a 93.3% save percentage. It's not inconceivable that Price's save percentage goes up.

Where the Habs should expect the most growth, though, is offensively. Montreal scored on just 7.1% of their shots in the opening round, below their season-long shooting percentage of 9.1%. Similarly, their actual output is below expected values in the opening round, suggesting that they should start to get a few more good bounces.

Conversely, the Jets overachieved relative to their expected metrics, adding to the regression argument. Montreal just finished shutting down one of the most dominant offensive teams in the league and could see growth over their coming games. We can't dismiss the Habs' chances in this series.

Summary

The Jets gave up more high-danger chances in their four-game series against the Oilers than the Habs did in their seven-game series against the Leafs. Hellebuyck can't continue on his opening round pace and will come back down to earth. Winnipeg's road metrics are among the worst in the league, and it's unlikely they find success in Montreal. Winnipeg may get the better of the Habs in Game 1, forcing the price on the Canadiens higher, but Montreal should be the North representative in the NHL's semifinals.

The Bet: Canadiens +118


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