How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet East/Ontario/Pacific/One (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NHL Network
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Whenever the Canadiens have seemed poised for a run this season, they’ve disappointed with lengthy losing streaks that cause the bottom to fall out of their playoff chances. When you begin to count them out, like most did at the end of their second eight-game losing streak, they respond with a great stretch that keeps them in the conversation.
It’s probably best to continue doubting their chances, considering they’ve gone 8-3-0 over the past four weeks as all the attention turned to how they were going to approach the trade deadline. And all while dealing with injuries and illness.
As the Habs have been surging, the Leafs have been tumbling, and the loss of Frederik Andersen certainly hasn’t helped. Dating back to January 6, the club is just 5-5-2, and that has Montreal six points behind Toronto, the next team on the ladder blocking their path to a playoff position.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||52.6% (5th)|
|3.05 (17th)||Goals per game||3.60 (2nd)|
|3.05 (17th)||Goals against per game||3.29 (27th)|
|19.9% (13th)||PP%||25.7% (3rd)|
|79.2% (21st)||PK%||77.1% (25th)|
Toronto couldn’t just watch the season slip away without an NHL-calibre goalie. Minutes after another disastrous outing from Michael Hutchinson on February 5, the Leafs acquired Jack Campbell in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Campbell got his first start last night, and he may get the call again tonight for the key divisional matchup.
His debut performance versus the Anaheim Ducks wasn’t exactly a convincing one. His team blew a 3-1 lead in the third period, and then a 4-3 edge with a minute to go. But the Leafs and their new goaltender still claimed the two points with a goal late in overtime.
With star forwards like Auston Matthews and John Tavares in the lineup (both of whom added to their goal totals versus the Ducks, with Tavares netting the winner), the team doesn’t need elite-level goaltending. As long as the goalie can limit the opposition to one less goal, the Leafs will happily rack up the wins.
Toronto has just one point through two games of the season series with Montreal. They’ve been burned by taking the Habs too lightly, giving those starts to Hutchinson instead of Andersen, and seeing the Canadiens put up 11 goals in the two contests.
Those results came at a time when Montreal was thoroughly enjoying the play of a rejuvenated Jonathan Drouin, both occurring in October before the top-six winger went down with injury. Three of the seven goals he had before exiting the lineup in mid-November were from those two results that now serve as critical decisions in Montreal’s post-season aspirations.
Drouin is nearing a return, but it will be other players who’ve featured in the offence versus Toronto who will be counted on tonight. Brendan Gallagher will be looking to keep his streak of scoring in each game versus the Leafs this season intact. Jeff Petry, who ended Thursday’s contest with a perfect shot off the elbow of the net and in, had a different trick versus the Leafs in the first game of the season: a penalty-shot goal that helped fully erase a 4-1 lead for Toronto (a familiar story for that club.)
Petry was the most-used player on Opening Night, as he was versus the Ducks with Shea Weber placed on Injured Reserve. The defence corps is also dealing with the flu that’s running through the team, making it a patchwork blue line the Habs may be forced to go with. It could very well be a 30-plus-minute night for the promoted defender, and how he fares versus the potent offence of the opposition will probably have a lot of weight in determining tonight’s result.