Precious few things in the game of hockey remain as special as a Saturday soirée between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Though some of the hostility may have been lost, and the stakes may not be as high as they once were, a meeting between Canada’s two largest markets rarely fails to excite.
The puck will drop less than 24 hours since the Habs last played on this, the second night of a back-to-back. After facing the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, the Canadiens will need to shift gears as they prepare to face a Maple Leafs squad who will undoubtedly be on fresher legs.
Making matters worse for the Habs is the roll the Leafs have been on as of late, netting six goals in three of their past four games - routing each of the Flyers, Predators, and Panthers along the way.
Coming into the season, we knew the Leafs would be a more exciting team to watch. What we didn’t know was how competitive they would turn out to be, at least early on. Their recent offensive explosion has helped them climb up the standings in this early part of the season, as they currently sit just a point outside of a wildcard spot.
Of course, Habs fans know all to well that it’s far too early yet to say whether or not a team can keep this up. At the risk of sounding like a Maple Leafs sympathizer, however, a quality Toronto team makes this rivalry a whole lot more interesting.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: CBC (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the United States: NHLN-US
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.38||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.99|
|1.61||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.95|
*Canadiens’ stats do not reflect Friday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes
The Leafs’ modus operandi coming into the year was fairly clear - if they were to win, they were going to need their offence clicking. Luckily, the offence has been clicking, and it has translated into a good run of form.
James van Riemsdyk remains the team’s top goal scorer with eight, but he has no shortage of company near the top. Some questioned whether Mitch Marner was NHL ready, which in hindsight was a foolish question - the rookie has tallied seven goals thus far and sits second on the team in points.
Auston Matthews stormed out of the gate this season, and though his production has slowed somewhat, there’s no doubting the 18-year-old represents a real threat to the Canadiens’ defence.
The problem for the Leafs has not been related to offence. In fact, only the New York Rangers have scored more goals at even strength than have the Leafs. What has been holding them back, instead, has been an inability to keep the puck out of their net as well. With 44 goals against at even strength, no team has conceded as often as the Leafs have this season.
Lou Lamiorello and company hoped that Frederik Andersen would be the answer to Toronto’s goaltending woes. The Dane came over after performing admirably for the Anaheim Ducks, but was a bit unproven as a legitimate number one. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, Andersen has been less than sparkling since the acquisition, posting a .907 SV%, while backup Jhonas Enroth has been no better.
Teams around the league have had difficulty slowing the Leafs’ offence so far, but few teams in the league have had goaltending as consistently reliable as the Canadiens. With Carey Price facing off against the best the Leafs have to offer, tonight is sure to be the toughest test yet for a team that has had little trouble lighting the lamp this past week.