Remember a year ago, when the final game of the season had crucial meaning for the Montreal Canadiens? How about 2007? Nah, let's not reflect on that disaster.
It's rather refreshing that tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre will not be a nail-biter for Canadiens fans. But when it comes to a final game of the regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it still brings out the best of these two clubs, regardless of position.
Tonight's game should be no exception, as a few issues can be addressed.
First, it will decide bragging rights between the two Original Six clubs for the season. The Leafs hold a 3-2 series lead over the Habs, with both Montreal victories coming by shutout at the Bell Centre. Carey Price, who earned both of those whitewashes, will get the call again tonight against James Reimer.
Second, a win for the Canadiens locks up sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They could still earn that position, even if they lose, depending on what the Buffalo Sabres do in their last game.
Who the Habs play in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs won't be decided until Sunday. Arpon Basu gives us a great look at the possibilities, but I strongly doubt the Canadiens want the Leafs to have any say in who they may play.
As for the Leafs, well their goal was to just make the playoffs. Unfortunately sandwiched between the great start of four wins, and a great push at the end, were injuries and some bad luck mixed with below expectations goaltending.
Much like the Canadiens (212 goals) lack of offense was a killer for the Leafs (217 goals). Until recently with Reimer's emergence, they could not rely on their goalie to steal a win for them. If Habs fans thought being shut out three straight games was bad, the Leafs have the overall lead with 11 games.
Depth in scoring is where Toronto really got hurt. Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin both reached the thirty-goal mark and Mikhail Grabovski is one shy. After that, they have just three other players in double digit goals. While the Habs do not have a 30-goal man, they have ten players in double digits for goals with one game left.
The Leafs will finish tenth in the conference, regardless of tonight's outcome. To be honest, it would have been nice to see them make the playoffs, as they were one of those teams that could go toe-toe with the conference leaders on occasion. A more physical team than Montreal, they likely could have worn out the Philadelphia Flyers or Boston Bruins deep into a series. Ah well, there's always next year for them...again.
More on the Leafs side at Pension Plan Puppets