For the third time this NHL postseason, teams will be playing on back-to-back nights when the Montreal Canadiens play host to the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of their quarterfinal Stanley Cup series Monday night.
Montreal has a 3-0 advantage after its 5-1 home victory Sunday night and can advance to the league semifinals with a victory.
Here are the betting odds for the game that starts at 8 p.m. EDT:
Lots And Lots Of Back-To-Backs
Such occurrences are relatively uncommon nowadays, but as recently as 1989 games played on consecutive days in the playoffs used to be quite frequent.
Back then each of the eight first-round series opened with four games the first five days, sometimes with Game 4 on Sunday afternoon network TV following a Saturday night game.
But over the past three decades, the practice of scheduling two games in a row has been reduced greatly. In fact, from 2017-19 there were no such instances, but during last year’s condensed pandemic postseason there were 17.
That’s not going to happen again.
Although players in the past seemed to have few issues with such crammed workloads, Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice came out two weeks ago saying that having back-to-backs in the playoffs is “egregious.”
Well, he might be right if the second game goes to three overtimes, which his Jets endured in the final game of a sweep of Edmonton on May 24.
However, In a long-ago interview, ex-Boston Bruin and Hall of Famer Phil Esposito mocked those who thought playing on consecutive days was too harsh.
“Grueling?” he said, “It didn’t seem grueling at all. It was great. I could have played every day of the week. That just meant we didn’t have to practice.
“Today’s players are wusses. They get on chartered planes, everything they want is at their beck and call. They stay in the best hotels and are treated like royalty.”
But he did acknowledge that those rare, rare day games after a night playoff battle could be a hardship: “It depended on whether I went out drinking the night before.”
“The Hound” Chimes In
Adding to that sentiment back then was Bob “The Hound” Kelly, a former standout for Philadelphia’s Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s,
“It’s all mental,” he said of the postseason grind when playing on consecutive days, especially when your team is struggling. “Any time you lose, it’s going to exhaust you. … What happened was, when you got tired (you) tried to play outside your skill levels. You cheated by keeping your shifts short.”
Now This Would Be Really Egregious
In major sports history, there have been more extreme examples of condensed scheduling than what Montreal and Winnipeg are facing and what the Jets boss bellyached about.
For instance, in the NBA Finals of 1954, Games 5-7 were played on consecutive nights between the Syracuse Nationals and Minneapolis Lakers.
In the 1966 Finals, the Celtics played the LA Lakers at Boston Garden on a Sunday and they were playing in Los Angeles the next night.
But the topper of them all had to be in 1968 in the old American Basketball Association when the Dallas Chaparrals had to play regular-season games seven straight days.
The sequence climaxed with a home game the fifth day, then an outing in Anaheim, California, before heading to Denver for the seventh. Somewhat miraculously, the Chaps won the last game in overtime against a Rockets team that had won nine of its previous 10 games.
Wonder what the money line number was for that upset.
So, Who Has The Edge Monday Night?
Naturally, the safe bet is going to be Montreal, playing at home with fans in the stands against a team that’s without its top center, Mark Scheifele, who’s suspended through Game 5.
In net, both No. 1s, Montreal’s Carey Price and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, are poised to play a second straight night, like both did earlier this postseason. But they haven’t made playing back-to-backs a habit, since neither did so in the regular season.
Price gets the edge based on yielding only one goal the past two games on 57 shots.
Then there’s the chance the Jets opt to let Hellebuyck’s head clear and try to jump-start the team by giving Laurent Brossoit his first-ever postseason start. It’s not worth taking that gamble on Winnipeg.
And, finally, as for over/unders, the trend would be to take the over, which stands at 5.5. Dating to 2019, in the 28 back ends of two in row the average goal total has been 6.1, with no more than nine in any game.