Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, Sportsnet Now
It’s time for the 2021-22 season to begin, and what better way to kick it off than with a Montreal Canadiens - Toronto Maple Leafs showdown?
One can only hope that the regular season rivalry will be much kinder to the Canadiens after losing their pre-season series to the Maple Leafs 2-1. But, as we all know, that was just practice and it’s time for the real show to begin.
Tale of the Tape
|Canadiens||Statistics (20-21)||Maple Leafs|
|Canadiens||Statistics (20-21)||Maple Leafs|
|53.1% (6th)||Corsi-for pct.||51.9% (11th)|
|2.82 (17th)||Goals per game||3.32 (6th)|
|2.95 (18th)||Goals against per game||2.64 (7th)|
|19.2% (17th)||PP%||20.0% (16th)|
|78.5% (23rd)||PK%||78.5% (24th)|
Before boarding the plane to Toronto, Nick Suzuki showed that he’s in it for the long haul after he inked an eight-year contract extension with the Canadiens. I’m pretty sure it was the first happy dance of the season for many a fan.
“I can still improve in a lot of different areas, so I think as a player, I’m still growing,” Suzuki said after signing the new deal. “Management saw that and they committed to me for a long time. I couldn’t be happier to be on this team and contribute as much as I can.”
Well, Nick, we’d like to see that just as much as you would.
As we all know, the Canadiens will be missing many players at the start of the season, but hope popped its little head up just before Tuesday’s practice as Paul Byron, who is recovering from hip surgery, and Mattias Norlinder, who’s out with a lower-body injury, skated before the rest of the team hit the ice.
Jake Allen is ready to step in and fill Carey Price’s skates as the starter for the foreseeable future while Price tends to himself after voluntarily checking himself into the NHL and NHLPA’s player assistance program last week. The minimum leave of absence for those in the program is 30 days, but, of course, you can’t put a timeline on recovery. So instead of taking the reins at the end of the season like he did last year, Allen will jump right back on the horse to open the season instead. If last year taught us anything it’s that we’re in pretty good hands with Allen while we wait for Price to return.
The lines from Tuesday’s practice and pre-season line shuffles gave us a glimpse of the fun that can be had this year. A top line of Tyler Toffoli and the dynamic duo of Suzuki and Cole Caufield ... I mean, come on. And seeing Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak, and Josh Anderson jive in the pre-season? Yes, please. This is the line that led the charge in their one and only pre-season victory over the Maple Leafs, generating three power-play goals in the 5-2 win. And we can’t forget Jeff Petry, who’s going to have to step up his leadership game even more now that his blue-line partner-in-crime, Shea Weber, is out for the season. Petry is paired with Brett Kulak on the top pairing. Let’s hope they can rekindle the chemistry they had in the past.
The Leafs had quite a six-game-long practice slate, winning five out of their pre-season games. They’re still going to be without their ‘stashed-up star, Auston Matthews, as he’s still recovering from wrist surgery. The team will also be short Ilya Mikheyev who is expected to be out for eight weeks with a broken thumb that requires surgery. Mikheyev left Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators after taking a hit to the boards.
They will, however, have their captain back. John Tavares is healthy and ready to get back to some hockey. The 31-year-old will be joining Nick Ritchie and Mitch Marner on the top line, assuming Marner is given the okay to suit up. After a collision with Wayne Simmonds during Tuesday’s practice, Marner left the ice as a precaution and will be evaluated before the game on Wednesday morning. So, the Leafs may have their home-opener without Matthews, Marner and Mikheyev, though Montreal’s first-round nemesis from last year, Willia Nylander, will still be looking to wreak havoc.
The off-season and pre-season have certainly brought us some gaps in the lineups to start the regular season, but let’s just test the water by dipping our toes in before jumping into the deep end. We may be battling opponents, injuries, and COVID protocols, but we’ve got ourselves an 82-game season. Let the fun, begin!