Canadiens at Maple Leafs - Game Preview

The Canadiens lost both games against the Leafs this year on Bell Centre ice, outscored 8-1. Can they do better at the Air Canada Center?

Let's not mince words about the last game the Montreal Canadiens played against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was downright embarrassing. The Habs played their worst game of the year by far, then got their asses kicked in fights they shouldn't have been in to top it off.

Josh Gorges was vibrating with anger after the game, and we've since learned that Colton Orr's sucker punch on Rene Bourque is likely what caused his current concussion.

But if the Canadiens are worried about Colton Orr tonight, they're probably going to lose again. Where the Canadiens really need to focus is on the trio (not a line) of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski in particular has been a Habs killer in his career.

James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail was tweeting some stats today, one being that Grabovski has a whopping 18 points against Montreal in 26 games, but he also has 70 penalty minutes, nearly 30% of his entire career total. Getting Grabovski off his game could be a key for the Habs.

Another key for the Canadiens could be how Michael Ryder meshes with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk, replacing Erik Cole on that line. Ryder gives less defensive insulation than Cole did, but Eller is up to the task there. Eller and Galchenyuk are both puck carriers and have been making excellent plays all year, it will be up to Ryder to get open and finish them.

Ryder will be wearing his usual #73 tonight, a number that's been worn so far this year by 20 year old Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher offered the number to Ryder right away, and Ryder said he would be doing something for Gallagher in the future. Gallagher will be wearing #11 from now on.

The Canadiens will be facing Ben Scrivens tonight, who shut them in their last meeting. Since that wakeup call of a game, the Canadiens are 6-0-2 and sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 12-4-3 record. For their part, the Leafs are 12-8-0, but they have a record of just 4-4-0 at home, in comparison to the Habs' 4-1-2 road record.

The Canadiens are coming off of a shootout loss against Ottawa that was far and away their most dominant game of the season, holding 66% of the possession while the score was tied. That game alone bumped the Habs from a lower end road team in possession to a mid-range team. Can they continue that trend tonight and get rewarded? We'll find out soon.

For the few from the opposing side, check out Pension Plan Puppets.

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