The Wraparound: Canadiens sorely need Petry vs. Golden Knights

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

In Game 1, the Golden Knights held several advantages over the Canadiens, starting mostly notably with that 4-1 score. If defense didn’t stick out like a sore thumb as an advantage just from watching the Canadiens get lost in transition, than the Golden Knights getting goals from Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, and Alec Martinez really slammed the point home.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

So, yeah, the Canadiens could really use Jeff Petry — ideally as early as Game 2, where his status is unclear — against the Golden Knights.

“He’s a key piece to our team,” frequent Petry defensive partner Joel Edmundson said. “He was our best defenseman all year and he’s obviously huge on the power play, too. So we’re definitely missing him out there.”

Just about every NHL team leans on point shots/shots from defensemen, but for ages — maybe as long as Shea Weber‘s been in town — Montreal leans especially heavily on sending in biscuits from the blueline.

Being that Weber is seemingly already dealing with a hand/arm injury himself, the Canadiens might not have their best-shooting defensemen at 100% in that area, even if Petry can return for Game 2 (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock).

Despite a shortened season, Petry scored an impressive 12 goals this season, marking his fourth season in a row with at least 11 tallies. Shea Weber “only” scored six goals this season, but scored 14 and 15 during the previous two campaigns.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

So, yeah, if the Canadiens wanted to trade goals from the blueline, it would help to have a healthy Weber and Petry.

(One might wonder if that could be a blessing in disguise for Montreal? Maybe they’d be forced to abandon the “spray and pray” mentality, instead hoping that Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, Brendan Gallagher, and others could instead pepper Marc-Andre Fleury with shots from higher-danger areas instead?)

Anyway, while Petry’s absence feels glaring on the scoreboard, he’s risen through the ranks thanks to outstanding all-around play. Generally speaking, Petry brings a lot of offensive acumen without giving up too much on defense.

Jeff Petry Evolving Hockey RAPM chart

Now, if he’s unable to really shoot (either in Game 2 if he can play, or vs. the Golden Knights overall), that might temper Petry’s overall impact. But consider how much his processing speed might help the Habs in transition, an area where they suffered vs. Vegas:

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So, Petry could really give the Canadiens a boost on offense (though maybe less than usual), and in transition. There also might be a domino effect where Montreal could put other defensemen in better positions.

In a “pluses and minuses” breakdown at The Athletic (sub. required), Julian McKenzie listed three Canadiens defenseman from that Game 1 loss to the Golden Knights. Brett Kulak, Erik Gustafsson, and Ben Chiarot all received “minus” designations.

If Jeff Petry can play Game 2, or at least later on vs. the Golden Knights, it could make for a better Montreal mix. For one thing, the Habs could sit one of Kulak, Gustafsson, or Chiarot. (Maybe they’d even rotate them in and out?)

In Game 1, the Canadiens handed out 25+ minutes to Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot, while Joel Edmundson logged 20:32 TOI. No other defenseman logged 17 minutes of ice time (Kulak ended up with 16:53.)

Considering how Vegas can force mistakes and wear opponents down, it’s crucial to find answers. Petry would at least make some of those questions a bit less gnawing for Montreal.

WEDNESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (VGK leads 1-0) – NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1) – USA Network / Peacock (livestream)

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Wraparound: Canadiens sorely need Petry vs. Golden Knights originally appeared on NBCSports.com