The 2007-08 season fourth installement of the Canadiens / Maple Leafs rivalry should be a fun game to watch, considering all the perspectives of doom attached to the game.
The Habs are coming off consecutive losses to Buffalo and the faithfull are grumbling about certain players taking a foot of the gas pedal. Things are much bleaker in Toronto's case, where the Leafs have skid without a screech into 14th place in the Eastern conference.
In both of hockey's fishbowls, there are many things on line tonight for whichever team losses.
Montreal might see a demotion or two, and possibly a trade, if things don't shake up soon.
However, the team is still positioned near the top, and many Montreal fans are simple panicking like only Habs fans can. It still looks quite clear in their aquarium.
In Leaf land, the jobs of GM and coach are on a death watch. Should they lose again, the team might see itself sucking the algae of the tank's bottom, spelling curtains for the Ferguson reign in Toronto.
Speculation has been running rampant about the consequences headed the GM's way and that is the scenario captivating fans of the bleu, blanc, bleu for this contest. Leafs supporters with long term vision might actually be cheering for a Habs blowout in this one, for no other reason than to put the GM out of their misery.
For fans of the bleu, blanc, rouge, they will be keeping a keen eye on how Guillaume Latendresse does on the top line, where he found the majority of his success last season. How Michael Ryder fares on the fourth line will also be followed closely.
While both wingers have struggled at times this season (Okay, I gauge the understatement), they each have earned the direction in which they are headed in regards to line standing.
There isn't much I can add to what I've already said about Ryder's woes, only to reiterate that I believe him to have become a figured out player by most oppositions and their defenders.
Latendresse, on the other hand, is likely a more multi - dimensional option. His size, reach, and strength ought to create room and opportunity for Koivu and Higgins in a way that Ryder's play could not.
"The longevity of this experience is up to me," Latendresse said. "If I work hard, if I bring something to that line, if we get scoring chances, that's where the longevity is coming from. If I don't work hard, if I'm lazy and everybody's playing better than me, I'm not staying on the first line."
One more thing to watch tonight will be the play of Carey Price, who helped the Habs vanquish the Leafs last time they were in Toronto. The fact is something the Canadiens can build on for this matchup.
I expect this game to be a rough one, as the Leafs rarely (against the Habs anyways) go down without a fight.
Expect Leafs pest Darcy Tucker to be a his stupidest tonight, followed closely by guys like McCabe and Belak, who rarely need a reason to get dumb.
As usual, even when strange circumstances don't mingle, twilight zone type weirdness tends to encompass all meetings between the long time rivals. I am expecting some form of unforeseen sparks to enliven the occasion beyond the usual brutal officiating, odd bounces, and unsing heroes that arise from these exercises in tension.
By practice, I now stay off the recliner, keep my bottle of beer more than an arm's length away, let the cat outdoors, and position the remote safely beyong flinging distance up top the wall unit.
Here's hoping the Habs learn their lessons as well and don't get outshot 28 - 3 in the first period.