March 22 2014 01:18PM
The out-of-town scoreboard has not been kind to the Maple Leafs over the past week (as I type this, I notice that Philadelphia has just scored twice to take a 2-1 lead over St. Louis) so this Toronto-Montreal clash becomes less of a first-round preview and more of a… I hate to call it a must-win, but it may just be that.
Here's a note on how streaky Toronto has been this season: Montreal has five streaks of at least three wins, and three streaks of at least three losses. The Maple Leafs have seven winning streaks and six losing streaks of at least three games.
I think you can attribute that to randomness and variance more than you can to explosions of confidence and motivation. It's made the Leafs both fun and frustrating to watch at times. Twice this season they've had a losing streak stretch to four games, and tomorrow they're playing the road half of a back-to-back against an equally volatile New Jersey Devils team. You hate to look ahead, but this is a pretty important game considering Sunday's schedule.
Never fear though. Dave Bolland is slated to return to the lineup tonight, although Jonathan Bernier is still out with that groin issue.
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Nik Kulemin
Mason Raymond - David Bolland - David Clarkson
Troy Bodie - Jay McClement - Colt Knorr
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Cody Franson - Jake Gardiner
Morgan Rielly - Tim Gleason
Luckily, Bolland has a lot of experience in his career coming back from injuries, so he'll be mentally ready for this. It will be tough for him to match his performance from October, but given Toronto's secondary-scoring issues, it may be required.
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Thomas Vanek
Daniel Briere - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Rene Bourque - Alex Galchenyuk - Brian Gionta
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Dale Weise
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon - P.K. Subban
Mike Weaver - Douglas Murray
"please don't leave the Sabres!!" 11-year old Kayleigh writes on Vanek's sponsored Hockey-Reference page. I feel bad for Kayleigh, but it would be funnier had a young Islanders fan sent out that message.
Anyway, Vanek has thus far killed it on the Habs top line, scoring a hat-trick on Tuesday, another goal on Thursday and recording four shots a game. Funny how good players never seem to struggle with chemistry. Vanek and Pacioretty may be as scary of a combination as Kessel and van Riemsdyk.
Carey Price is back in le but for le club hockey after a mysterious injury after the Olympics, but has allowed at least three goals in all three of his starts since.
Anyway, this is a biggie, but we can get through this. With beer.