2021 North Division Semifinals Game 5
TOR leads 3-1
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.: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
After getting the first win in the series to make an upset of the division’s top team look like a possibility, the Canadiens have been dealt three consecutive losses. In each of the four games played so far Montreal has played a fairly even first period (the teams are tied with three goals apiece in the opening 20 minutes), but everything unravels once the second begins. The Leafs scoring advantage in the middle frame was extended to 8-1 with another three second-period goals on Tuesday, and that has been the deciding factor in each of Toronto’s wins.
For the first time this post-season, the Canadiens are facing elimination. While they are obviously desperate for a win, they first need to start with a goal, and that is proving difficult.
Jack Campbell has played well in the series, but you can’t say he’s stolen games his team deserved to lose, and he certainly hasn’t had to make the highlight-reel saves like Carey Price’s paddle stop, nor faced the same calibre of odd-man chances right on his doorstep like Montreal’s netminder. The Habs need to find a way to make that happen on multiple occasions tonight. If they don’t, they’ll be heading home to begin their off-season.
Tale of the Tape
|47.7% (10th)||Corsi-for pct.||52.4% (7th)|
|1.00 (16th)||Goals per game||3.00 (7th)|
|3.00 (10th)||Goals against per game||1.00 (1st)|
|0.0% (16th)||PP%||18.8% (10th)|
|81.3% (9th)||PK%||100.0% (1st)|
How do they create more opportunities? First and foremost, they need to get control of the puck and move it up the ice. Puck-moving has been a real struggle for the Canadiens’ defence, and the Leafs are beginning to cheat toward offence when they try. Every defenceman seems a step behind the play in this series, including the usually creative Jeff Petry, and Toronto has been, quite literally, skating circles around them.
The majority of Toronto’s goals in Game 4 came from advancing into the offensive zone with speed and catching a defenceman out of position. Even the most aged of Toronto’s forwards were getting in the fun, with both Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton potting goals. They were making a mockery of the Habs’ defensive approach, and it was all fully deserved.
Now with nothing to lose, the Habs need to shake things up. Their opponent has recognized their strategies and adapted perfectly. Whether that means getting the puck off the boards to make some plays in the middle or having the speediest players just rush up with the puck (an effective strategy that almost helped Montreal turn the tide in Game 3), there needs to be some type of change in how the team plays.
There were suggestions of getting Alexander Romanov into the lineup last game, but with nothing to lose there’s no justification for holding him out any longer. Maybe his less refined game leads to some chances or goals for Toronto, but perhaps his team-best mobility on the back end is the catalyst the Habs needs to kick the offence into gear. He will at least make a second power-play unit more interesting, offering a chance to get a first goal on the man advantage despite the best efforts of Cole Caufield in his two games.
It’s clear by now that Dominique Ducharme’s plan to ride with the established veterans with playoff experience isn’t getting the job done. Maybe finally getting the future core of the team all on the ice together for the first time is the key to success, or at least giving the team a fighting chance of extending the series.