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Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The curtain lifts on a campaign filled with hope — for next year, not this one.

NHL: OCT 04 Senators at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: ESPN+, Sportsnet Now

Our story begins on July 7, 2021, with the ending of a fairy tale.

Despite falling short at the last hurdle, an unforeseen trip to the Stanley Cup Final had provided a much-needed balm for long-suffering Montreal Canadiens fans. But this was the culmination of ten years of progress and setbacks, the flickering embers of a generation. And although no one could say so with certainty at the time, that era came to an end as Carey Price and Shea Weber slowly glided off the Amalie Arena ice that night.

In hindsight, the Canadiens entered the 2021-22 season as a hollow shell. The old guard of the great venture had not recovered from their expenditures — and some never would. Other key players departed for greener pastures, or were deemed non-essential. The reinforcements lacked cohesion, futilely attempting to fill roles for which they were ill-suited.

The result was seismic, historic. From the Stanley Cup Final to eight wins in the first half of the season. From hope to despair, joy to rage, in the blink of an eye.

Il faut que ça change. And it did.

Marc Bergevin and Dominque Ducharme out, Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton, and Martin St-Louis in.

The changes didn’t end there: Tyler Toffoli, Ben Chiarot, Artturi Lehkonen, and Brett Kulak all out by the trade deadline. Jeff Petry, Alexander Romanov, Ryan Poehling, and Shea Weber gone during the off-season. In their place, Canadiens fans hope, stand hints of future glory: Kirby Dach, Emil Heineman, Filip Mešar, Owen Beck, Justin Barron, and Juraj Slafkovský.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Maple Leafs
Canadiens Statistics Maple Leafs
22-49-11 Record (21-22) 54-21-7
45.1% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 55.8% (3rd)
2.66 (27th) Goals per game 3.80 (2nd)
3.87 (32nd) Goals against per game 3.07 (19th)
13.7% (31st) PP% 27.3% (1st)
75.6% (27th) PK% 82.1% (8th)
2-2-0 H2H Record 2-2-0
Tale of the Tape

Facing off against the Canadiens to start the 2022-23 season will be their polar opposites. The Toronto Maple Leafs are more or less set in their ways. They will ride or die with their big four up front: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander. The blue line also remains relatively intact; Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin, and Marc Giordano all return for another shot at the first hurdle.

With the core established, general manager Kyle Dubas largely worked around the edges, which in Toronto includes the goaltender position. Jack Campbell priced himself out of Toronto, so Dubas is hoping that either Matt Murray can recapture his playoff form of old or Ilya Samsonov can finally live up to his potential. Beyond that, Rasmus Sandin will try to play his way up the pairings, Michael Bunting knocks on wood that sophomore jinxes only apply to players under 27, and Nick Robertson hopes that the third year is the charm when it comes to being “the next big thing.”

For the Leafs, these next 82 games are a preamble to what will make or break their campaign. They, to a man, will be judged solely on their ability to earn four wins between games 83 and 89. Dubas has already spent four of his lives, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll get the full nine.

For the Canadiens, “renewal” is the word of the hour.

There is a new captain, Nick Suzuki. Beside him stands Cole Caufield, now firmly established as a future pillar of the club. With Joel Edmundson sidelined, the rearguard corps at season’s start is helmed by Mike Matheson.

But no one thinks that the changing of the guard is over yet.

There will be more roster moves, more draft picks, and more prospects. There will be continued tinkering and adjusting, strategic shifts and adaptations. There might even be a waiver move or two.

As such, the club will also not be judged by the results of the next 82 games. There will likely be more losing, at least for 2022-23. But Habs fans hope — and expect — that this losing will bring future rewards, that it will be part of a long-term vision rather than the consequence of a lack thereof.

Although the team as a whole may not have expectations, the management and coaching staff are looking for signs of individual development, as well as opportunities to strengthen the foundation of the roster. As such, each individual player is still auditioning for something:

The remnants of the old guard need to stamp their place in the team’s new future, not just its past.

The short-term veterans need to prove their value, whether to this squad or another.

The established youngsters need to show that they can move forward and become the foundation of tomorrow.

The would-be AHL graduates need to seize the day, because the opportunity will close sooner than they think.

The newest kids on the block need to assert their place in the NHL, or at least sow the seed that they will summit the mountain, one day or another.

So as the curtain rises on 2022-23, although the stage yet contains no one to rival the legends of bygone years, this opening act may yet spur the imagination to see what a glorious future may hold.

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ‘tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,

Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.