How to watch
Start time: **8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT**
In Canada: Sportsnet
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
That Canadiens went into Calgary with a big lead over the club that happened to be right behind them in the standings. They knew that just a single win in the three-game set was probably going to be enough to hold the Flames at bay and make life extremely difficult for their opponent
The Habs certainly made it hard on themselves, losing the first two games and leaving it until the last minute to go for that critical victory. Management had to pull off some salary-cap tricks that would impress any escape artist to get their top offensive prospect into the lineup, giving them at least the threat of more offence to keep an aggressive defensive team honest. In the end the Canadiens played a much better game in Cole Caufield’s debut, looking less overwhelmed and dictating more of the play to get a deserved 2-1 win before heading home.
Now awaiting them at the Bell Centre are the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are about as secure in first place in the North Division as the Canadiens now are in the final playoff spot. As it stands this is looking like the most likely first-round matchup for the two clubs, and the Canadiens will want to show they’ll prove a tough test for the star-laden favourites.
Tale of the Tape
|54.6% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||50.7% (12th)|
|2.87 (14th)||Goals per game||3.29 (7th)|
|2.83 (16th)||Goals against per game||2.71 (11th)|
|19.4% (21st)||PP%||21.5% (10th)|
|77.3% (24th)||PK%||76.6% (26th)|
Montreal has done a fair job of that through the first six games of the 10-match season series, with a 2-3-1 record. Three of Toronto’s four wins have been by just one goal, and the most recent game was a 4-2 win for Montreal as they handled the Leafs’ star players similarly to how the team (mostly) dealt with Connor McDavid on the recent road trip.
Alexander Romanov played a big role in that game on April 12, but he was the one who had to be sacrificed to the taxi squad on Monday night to get Caufield in the formation. With seven healthy blue-liners to choose from now, it would take a regular recall to bring him back up, so it could be some time before the rookie can return.
Fortunately, Jon Merrill, who was brought in to be Romanov’s defence partner, has looked much more capable than merely a third-pairing player, showing the top-four defensive skills we thought he had at the time of his arrival, but also some good offensive instincts that hint at his ability to play a complete game. It may not be long until he begins to work his way up the lineup, perhaps as soon as tonight.
Montreal’s 4-2 win that ended a long winning run for Jack Campbell started a losing streak for Toronto, and once again had the media and fanbase fretting about the goaltending situation. Campbell got pulled in his next start versus the Winnipeg Jets, surrendering three goals in five consecutive games dating back to a 6-5 win over Ottawa right before they visited Montreal.
The Leafs have since put an end to a five-game losing streak by sweeping another two-game set with the Winnipeg Jets after knocking enough of their players out of the lineup, the latest being perhaps the Jets’ best skater in Nikolaj Ehlers. They will be pleased to face another decimated formation this evening, but the Habs still have the ever-dangerous presence of Josh Anderson, a red-hot Tyler Toffoli on a four-game goal streak, and possibly a lethal sniper looking for his first goal in his introduction to the Habs-Leafs rivalry.