MONTREAL — Greetings from la Belle Province, where the Winnipeg Jets will face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Super Bowl Sunday.
Been a busy day as I was back in my hometown of Altona to celebrate my Grandma Wiebe’s 99th birthday. She was in good spirits and it was nice to spend a bit of time with her on this monumental occasion.
The Jets hit the ice at MTS Centre Saturday before flying to Montreal.
I didn’t make the skate, but colleague Patrick Williams of NHL.com was kind enough to pass along some quotes from the scrums that were held.
Before I look ahead to Sunday’s match-up with the Habs, let’s look back quickly at Friday’s 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks, a tilt that featured a strong start by the Jets — goals by Zach Bogosian (on a one-timer) and Devin Setoguchi (after a nice set-up by Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele) that came 65 seconds apart before the game was seven minutes old.
If there was some concern about whether the Jets might be feeling sorry for themselves after dropping an important two points to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, they were erased by the quick start.
But an offensive-zone holding minor to Chris Thorburn gave the Canucks a power play and they needed only eight seconds to strike as Alex Edler cut the deficit to 2-1 just past the midway point of the first period.
Ryan Kesler scored on a backhand at 4:48 of the second period to even the score, but Michael Frolik restored the lead momentarily by burying a pass from Andrew Ladd, who had two assists in the contest.
But at 11:50, Ladd failed to clear the zone and Jason Garrison unloaded a howitzer from the point that beat Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game once again.
But after Alexandre Burrows caught Mark Stuart with a high stick, the Jets moved the puck up the ice, Pavelec went to the bench for the extra attacker and Setoguchi took a pass in the slot from Jacob Trouba before beating Eddie Lack with a low shot for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Setoguchi played an inspired game, which was important, considering he took an undisciplined penalty that led to the game-winning goal against the Predators.
Setoguchi set the physical tone and then found the back of the net twice — an impressive turn of events considering he had scored just once in his previous 26 games.
Setoguchi was acquired from the Minnesota Wild on July 5 for a second round pick in 2014 and expected to produce more offensively. He’s been plagued by inconsistency, but seems to be reborn a bit under head coach Paul Maurice.
Setoguchi was excited after delivering on Friday and gave a lot of credit to Maurice, for keeping him positive during the course of the past few days when he was a bit down on himself — a subject I explored in detail in my game-analysis column.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Setoguchi between now and the NHL trade deadline. While he’s been prone to slumps during the course of his career, he’s had some legendary hot streaks as well.
If Setoguchi — who will become a UFA in July — can pick things offensively while providing some physical play, it’s going to put Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in an interesting position.
Either Setoguchi’s trade value will rise or Cheveldayoff will be tempted to keep the winger and ride things out, perhaps try to sign an extension before he hits the open market.
Having said that, I don’t see the Jets making any trades before the Olympic roster freeze on Feb. 7 — though I do expect defenceman Zach Redmond to be returned to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League so he can get some game action in during the break.
As much as Redmond enjoys the NHL pay check, he needs to be in the lineup right now to aid his development.
Speaking of the AHL, Paul Postma has two games under his belt during his two-week conditioning stint with the IceCaps. Postma picked up an assist in Friday’s win over the Portland Pirates and added three helpers in the win over the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday to earn first-star honours.
Postma has missed most of the season after needing treatment for a blood clot in his calf.
After the two-week period is up, Postma will return to practice with the Jets and will likely slide into the 7th D-man role or be shuffled into the third pairing mix with Adam Pardy and Keaton Ellerby, both of whom have earned the trust of Maurice.
As the Jets have found out in each of their three seasons, you can never have enough depth on the blue-line.
Going back to Friday, it was an interesting environment for the game between the Jets and Canucks, given the long-standing relationship between True North Sports and Entertainment during their time running the Manitoba Moose (who served as the Canucks’ farm team for a decade).
Jets co-owner and chairman Mark Chipman caught up with most of the six former Moose players that were in the lineup on Friday and all of those players had good things to say about the time they spent playing in Winnipeg and working their way up the pro ranks.
The Canucks were the 29th and final team to visit MTS Centre and they had plenty of supporters in attendance, many of whom were sporting jerseys.
There were loud cheers when the Canucks scored, not quite at Toronto Maple Leafs levels but louder than I had anticipated.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis made the trip, as did assistant GM Laurence Gilman, a Winnipegger who took in his first NHL game at MTS Centre.
Although not the sentimental type, I’m guessing Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger enjoyed seeing several of his former players and probably enjoyed that victory more than most.
Heisinger got some props from Burrows, who was in the ECHL before Heisinger gave him a shot with the Moose before he made the jump to full-time NHLer.
Burrows is proud to tell reporters how much he owes Heisinger and he repeated those feelings on Friday morning.
The Jets played another pretty good game against a Canucks team that is reeling a bit during the suspension of head coach John Tortorella, who served the final game of his suspension Friday.
By the way, that cardboard cutout of Tortorella that fans had behind the Canucks’ bench was hilarious.
Back to the Canucks for a second, the Jets might have run away with this one were it not for the brilliant goaltending of Lack, the Swedish rookie who made several highlight-reel saves during the second period to keep his team in the contest and finished with 30 saves in what was his first game back since backstopping the Moose to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs in 2010-11.
For the Jets, after giving up the Garrison goal that tied it, they quickly regained their composure and scored late, knowing the importance of not allowing the Canucks to get to extra time and secure at least one point.
As a result, the Jets pulled within six points of the Canucks (both teams have played 56 games and have 26 remaining).
There’s no morning skate on Sunday because of the 12:15 p.m. CT puck drop, but I’ll provide my usual game-day tee-up blog after reporters speak with Maurice in the morning at Bell Centre.
The Canadiens lost 2-1 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon on Nate Thompson’s second goal of the contest.
If you haven’t already, go to www.winnipegsun.com (or buy Sunday’s paper) and be sure to check out my column teeing up the road trip an, my notebook that deals with the beginnings of the Jets aviator helmet award to their player of the game in victories and some goalie talk, along with the Super Bowl predictions of several Jets players in my final story.
As for my Super Bowl pick, I think Peyton Manning will play well but the Seahawks red-zone defence will stiffen and running back Marshawn Lynch will be the MVP as the Seahawks win a thriller 27-24 on a late field goal from Steven Hauschka.
Talk to you from the Bell Centre on Sunday. Au revoir.