2021 North Division Semifinals Game 4
TOR leads 2-1
How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Second periods. They’ve been the bane of the Canadiens’ hopes of pulling off an upset of the Maple Leafs. The North Division’s top team has taken full control of the periods with the long change, hemming the Habs in their own zone for several minutes at a time. Montreal has been outscored 5-1 in the middle frame, and that has cost them the last two games.
On Monday night, they finally got their first second-period goal of the series on a perfect shot from Nick Suzuki, but it was one of just seven times the Canadiens tested Jack Campbell in the frame, while the Leafs had 16 of their 23 shots to earn a 2-1 lead.
The Canadiens returned that favour in the third period, holding a 13-2 edge in shots as they tried to find a tying goal, but offence continued to elude them as they stayed on just one goal until the final whistle sounded.
Against one of the most prolific offensive squads in the league, four goals are rarely enough to win one game, let alone the three that have been played so far. The Habs have to find a way to solve their issues if they want to exit Game 4 with the series tied.
Tale of the Tape
|45.2% (12th)||Corsi-for pct.||54.8% (5th)|
|1.33 (16th)||Goals per game||2.67 (10th)|
|2.67 (7th)||Goals against per game||1.33 (1st)|
|0.0% (16th)||PP%||14.3% (13th)|
|85.7% (7th)||PK%||100.0% (1st)|
After watching the last game, everyone knows that strategy has to start with Cole Caufield. He began the game by ringing a shot off the crossbar on the power play, and remained the most dangerous forward for the rest of the contest. He was one of the few Habs players able to break the Leafs’ line of defence, mostly because he was one of the few willing to attack the blue line with speed. He created some of the best scoring chances of the game, showing no sign of nerves in his first playoff game, proving that he truly thrives in big-game situations.
Rather than be a player whose spots are chosen carefully, he needs to be a central figure of the offensive game. In fact, all of the young players should be trusted at this point, because the veterans that Dominique Ducharme was leaning on to start his NHL post-season career haven’t lived up to expectations so far. If you’re solely focused on this year and this series (which you hope the coach and all the players are) you’re probably upset about how the majority of the players have performed. If you’re looking ahead to the future of the organization, you have to be quite pleased with having Caufield, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Nick Suzuki all being among the better players in Game 3.
Since we would all (or most of us) like to see the Canadiens get this turned around and continue the disappointment for the Leafs organization, there could be yet more lineup changes for the coach to make. One of those could be getting Alexander Romanov back in after a couple of games of the current group of six getting skating around by the Leafs’ forecheck. It may not have the immediate impact of the Caufield addition, but it would at least give the team a player who could race to the bench on a long change to get a fresh defender on, and help move the puck if he can handle the pressure his teammates have been struggling with.
With yet another injury to a forward as Artturi Lehkonen left Game 3, a new forward could also be making his way in, or maybe one more night of recovery is all Jake Evans needs to get back into game fitness. Like Caufield, his speed would be a big addition to keep the Leafs honest, and help round out the lines for a pivotal match.