How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet, CITY-TV (English), TVA Sports (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
The last time the Montreal Canadiens met the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team was hot off the heels of a surprisingly comprehensive 5-2 defeat of the Winnipeg Jets. The Habs carried that momentum into their next game, punching and counter-punching with one of the league’s elite offensive teams.
Andrew Shaw opened the scoring within a minute of the opening faceoff, only to see the Leafs strike twice before the game was five minutes old. After Tomas Tatar knotted the score at two apiece in the second, the Bell Centre faithful was treated to a most mythical event in the third: a Canadiens power-play goal, courtesy of Brendan Gallagher. Alas, William Nylander would respond almost immediately, and John Tavares sealed the two points for the Leafs in overtime.
Tale of the Tape
|53.9% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||51.3% (10th)|
|2.98 (14th)||Goals per game||3.50 (4th)|
|2.90 (12th)||Goals against per game||2.83 (9th)|
|12.7% (31st)||PP%||20.9% (14th)|
|79.9% (19th)||PK%||81.2% (11th)|
Now, history repeats itself, as the Canadiens head to Scotiabank Arena on the back of another comprehensive victory — this time over the Philadelphia Flyers — and just as that 4-3 defeat to the Leafs came as Montreal was heading out on the road, Saturday night’s game in Toronto is the start of a four-game trip.
The Habs will be hoping for both a better result against the Torontonians and on the subsequent road swing as they seek to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race, while also aiming to avoid a first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The win in Montreal on February 9 was the fourth consecutive for the Maple Leafs and fell in the middle of a six-wins-in-seven-games stretch that culminated in a 6-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Since then, the Leafs have dropped three straight decisions: to the Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and Washington Capitals.
Further complicating matters, it’s the offence that’s been letting the team down during this stretch, as after tallying 4.3 goals during the aforementioned seven-game run, the Leafs have only scored four times in their three subsequent defeats.
The fortunes of the Maple Leafs this season have largely been carried by their top-six forwards, and the last outing between the Leafs and Habs was no exception. While Mike Babcock leaned heavily on his top two trios, centred by Tavares and Auston Matthews, Claude Julien responded by stapling his fourth line (Nicolas Deslauriers, Michael Chaput, and Matthew Peca) to the bench and cutting Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s even-strength ice time. Julien won’t have last change this time around, so it’ll be interesting to see the composition of the Habs’ fourth line on Saturday night, as well as how the Canadiens’ bench boss treats the potential possibility of Kotkaniemi-Matthews or Kotkaniemi-Tavares matchups.
Unlike last time, where a meeting with Toronto was a gatekeeper to the likes of the Predators and Lightning, the Habs will proceed after Saturday to eminently winnable games against the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. The Habs will try to harness the momentum from their recent mini home swing and let their effort level set the tone for this vital road trip, regardless of the result in Toronto.