2021 North Division Semifinals Game 7
Series tied 3-3
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.: CNBC
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The post-season began with the Montreal Canadiens playing without their two youngest forwards. The coaching staff had decided that experience was the way to go about a series with what had proven to be a superior opponent in the regular season, and they got rewarded for that choice with a somewhat surprising 1-0 series lead.
That edge in the seven-game series didn’t last, as the Leafs proceeded to win the next three to push Montreal to the brink. But over that time, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield had finally been introduced to the action, and were getting up to the speed of the play.
Now, as Montreal has clawed its way back, it has been the young players who have made the most critical impacts to tie the series at three games apiece. Caufield and Nick Suzuki turned defence into offence in Game 5 to seal an overtime victory. It seemed that Montreal was about to meet its end in Game 6 as the Maple Leafs peppered a lethargic team in another overtime period, but it was Kotkaniemi who gave the story a plot twist with a goal on just Montreal’s second shot in 15 minutes of extra time.
The series now reaches its finale with a winner-take-all game, and it’s those young players who seem poised to be the difference-makers. The feeling isn’t one of concern about how they will handle the pressure; they’ve all proven to play at their best in that situation, not only this year but in their entire hockey careers. Tonight’s showdown for a spot in Round 2 is just another chance for them to show off their potential as stars in the making.
Tale of the Tape
|47.9% (10th)||Corsi-for pct.||52.1% (8th)|
|1.83 (15th)||Goals per game||2.83 (8th)|
|2.83 (8th)||Goals against per game||1.83 (2nd)|
|11.1% (16th)||PP%||14.3% (12th)|
|85.7% (4th)||PK%||88.9% (1st)|
Toronto has been through this phase before, with a young core of forward talent well established in the league by now. Auston Matthews led the NHL in goals in the regular season, Mitch Marner is annually one of the top-producing playmakers, and William Nylander, following some struggles, is carving out his own role on the team.
Not many expected Nylander to be the main force leading the Leafs’ offence, but that is precisely what has transpired through six games. Without his consistent play, Montreal may have already had the series wrapped up. He’s by far the most noticeable of Toronto’s skaters, and the one the Habs will need to guard the tightest.
As for the best players overall in the series, the goaltenders for both teams have been the ones stealing the show. Carey Price is showing his typical playoff form, looking completely different from his regular-season self, which is now his established pattern. He’s now up to a .925 mark in the series despite surrendering four goals in Game 2, and seems to be getting more comfortable as the series goes on.
Having fans in the stands inspired the Canadiens to their best start of the series on Saturday, and Jack Campbell was the only Maple Leafs player not shellshocked by the surge of energy. If not for his play, the Canadiens could have had a lead of three or four goals after 20 minutes, and his team could have been completely dispirited for the final two frames.
Both goalies have played well enough to move on, but only one of them will come out of this goaltending duel to enter another one with Connor Hellebuyck. Whichever team gets the greatest showing from its young core of talent to solve the near-impenetrable walls the netminders are putting up is likely going to be the one advancing to face the Winnipeg Jets in the division final.