The Winnipeg Jets held an optional skate to prepare for Game 1 of their second-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
The underdog Habs defeated the heavily-favoured Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 on Monday, punching their ticket to the second-round, and a matchup against the Jets. Goaltender Carey Price played a large part in the comeback win, posting a .945 save percentage after the Canadiens went down 3-1 in the series.
The Jets boast their own star goaltender, as 2019-20 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck stymied the Edmonton Oilers en route to a .950 save percentage in the Jets' first-round sweep of their North Division opponent.
Jets' captain Blake Wheeler respects what Price has done and acknowledges the monumental matchup in goal that lies ahead.
“Two of the best in the game. Carey Price is probably the top goalie of my generation," said Wheeler. "He’s shown the ability to steal big games, steal big moments, had a big part in their last series, too. Nothing but respect what he’s done.”
Jets' forward Nate Thompson, who played for the Canadiens from 2018-2020, offered similar thoughts about the two Vezina-winning goalies.
"Both really, really good. I don’t know if I want to compare. They’re both elite goaltenders," said Thompson. "With Price, I guess the only difference is that he’s been doing it a little bit longer. But it’s tough to compare. They’re both elite goaltenders. A couple of the best goaltenders in the world if you ask me.”
With goaltending at the forefront of the series, Jets' defenceman Josh Morrissey believes a tight series lies ahead for two teams that have found similar success on the defensive side of the puck.
"Both teams have found their game down the stretch and into the first round," said Morrissey. "There are a lot of similarities in the defensive elements of the game that both teams have really keyed in on.
"It’s going to be a tough defensive series. Just like Wheels said, a patient series with great goaltending."
The Jets enter the series as favourites, having won the season series 6-3, including 3-1 at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.
With more than a week between games, Jets' head coach Paul Maurice will need to quickly ramp back up to playoff intensity in time for Wednesday's puck drop.
"If you’ve got a long break it usually means you won a series quickly, so that you didn’t become overconfident in the days where you didn’t play a game in between," said Maurice. "Getting that edge back. And then in order to do that you’ve got to look for a certain simplicity in your game.
"I’m just going to say it’s getting back to understanding playoff hockey. So we have to get ourselves back to that level as fast as we can.”