2021 North Division Semifinals Game 3
Series tied 1-1
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NHL Network
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens did well to keep the Maple Leafs to the outside in Game 1, only allowing the occasional play into the slot and getting big saves from Carey Price whenever a shot did come form a dangerous area. Thanks to Toronto’s inability to keep the puck below the height of the glass, they weren’t really able to gain a foothold, and Montreal grabbed a 1-0 series lead.
In Game 2, Montreal’s approach to discouraging opponents from getting to the slot was using their sticks, and the officials were having none of that. The Habs ended the night with five stick fouls (then a fine on Sunday for an uncalled cross-check from Shea Weber), and the Leafs’ cold power play used all that practice to warm themselves up with two power-play goals. Turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 game, those goals surely boosted the confidence of a team with a whole identity of offensive play.
The Canadiens didn’t get nearly so many power plays on the night, just one in fact, and remain scoreless in six opportunities through two games. It’s tough to go toe-to-toe with a powerful offensive squad without capitalizing on your odd-man chances, and that has people wondering if it’s time to give the organization’s top goal-scoring prospect his first taste of NHL playoff experience.
Tale of the Tape
|42.6% (14th)||Corsi-for pct.||57.4% (3rd)|
|1.50 (14th)||Goals per game||3.00 (8th)|
|3.00 (10th)||Goals against per game||1.50 (3rd)|
|0.0% (13th)||PP%||20.0% (7th)|
|80.0% (10th)||PK%||100.0% (1st)|
Cole Caufield took a few regular-season games to get up to speed, but once he did he finished the year with four goals in his final eight games. As was the case ahead of his debut, some are looking for him to come in and help the team find some goals, having just three through two games to this point. His play certainly helped the club secure its post-season berth in the first place with some clutch goals, so it wouldn’t be anything new for a player who seems to thrive in such circumstances.
Despite the gap in play between the two clubs on Saturday, the situation is far from dire with both clubs having a win. The players know that stick fouls are a problem, and having the defencemen use their bodies and save their sticks for making plays with the puck would be an improvement over what they tried to do in Game 2.
As nice as it would be to have the offensive skills of Caufield in the mix, there are some other lineup regulars who are yet to make their impressions. I think we were all looking forward to seeing Brendan Gallagher throw every bit of energy he had into his usual play around the net, but we haven’t seen that from him, or his linemates, through two games. He only has three shots in the series, though he came very close to netting his first of the series on a rush when his shot just missed the net.
Nick Suzuki was the star of last year’s run and a big reason why Tyler Toffoli decided to sign in Montreal in the off-season. The Habs’ top goal-scorer and the centre who ended the year with 14 points in his last 11 games didn’t find their stride on the road, but now Dominique Ducharme can pick their spots with last change. They could be the beneficiaries of Caufield’s addition if that is indeed the decision tonight.
There was also a hint at a return of Jake Evans who missed the last game with a minor injury. You have to think that Eric Staal would be the one to come out to make room for him to return to centre, but it’s also possible that one of them could be shifted to the wing. For those decisions, we’ll have to wait to hear what the coach’s plan is for what will be the first of back-to-back games at home.