LGD: Lets put an end to a Hab-it

If there’s anything worse than watching the Leafs lose, it’s watching the Habs win. At least in the case of the former, it’s something that comes with a benefit. If Toronto loses, it makes them more likely to fire-sell for assets in February. It makes them more likely to get a shiny new draft pick. If Toronto loses, it’s all just a part of a bumpy road that eventually leads to the finish line.

But the Habs winning? All that does is put Toronto’s arch-nemesis slightly closer to winning Canada’s first Stanley Cup since, well, the last time they did it. That, and make Habs fans, who are worse than the Habs themselves, even more obnoxious.

At least they like hockey too. That’s their saving grace. Anyway, the Blue and White take on the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge tonight. Here’s what’s going down.

The Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

Byron Froese makes his NHL debut tonight. I suppose if you’re going to call a guy up who has never laced up the skates for a real deal NHL game, you may as well play him. This should be a good opportunity for him; the fourth line will likely see defensive minutes, but he has sufficient enough linemates that he can show his creative side as well.

In positive news, Leo Komarov seems to be good to go, despite concern about his head’s sudden meeting with the rounded glass against Buffalo. Beyond that, not a ton of surprise, other than perhaps Nick Spalling getting a shot at being a top-six forward, even if that only means he plays 48 seconds more than the third line.

The Habs

Montreal Canadiens Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

I’m obviously playing up the Habs hate in the opening paragraph, as I’m an emotionless robot. But man, if there’s one thing that I dislike about this team, it’s that they’re both a sworn cultural enemy, yet such a fun team on paper. 

It’s easy for a Leafs fan to dislike guys like Brendan Gallagher and PK Subban, but they’d be living legends if they wore the right sweater. Alex Galchenyuk is turning into one of the league’s most entertaining young talents. The team recognized David “French Bozak” Desharnais’ pitfalls quickly and adjusted him accordingly. Devante Smith-Pelly wears Toronto on his sleeve despite wearing Montreal on his chest. Andrei Markov is one of the better defenceman of our era, Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert are solid value vets, and Alexander Semin could be brilliant again if he gets his act together. The worst thing I can say about Tomas Plekanec is that his turtleneck is ugly, and the only knock I have on Max Pacioretty is that he wears 67.

Such a likeable roster. Such a hatable team.

Starting In Goal

Starting in goal for Toronto, is the french guy with the weird haircut. Jonathan Bernier has actually been very good to start the season, especially if you turn a blind eye to how he’s started, well, just about every game. 

Starting in goal for Montreal is the English/Native westerner who looks normal, Carey Price. What more can you say about this guy? He had one of the best goaltending seasons in NHL history last year and somehow looks even better now. I tend to rank my elite goaltenders based on their very long-term (5 year) sustained performance, but it’s getting really hard to rule him out as the best goaltender on the planet.

What To Look For

I’m not even going to bullet point this one. Tonight’s goal should be to wear down the Habs. They’re a skilled team with a lot of quickness, but the if the Leafs have anything to their credit, it’s that they can keep up in the foot races. This is a game for “grit” if I’ve ever seen one; forecheck hard, and fire anything you’ve got at Carey Price; he’s so technically good that there’s no right or wrong moment for him; just overwhelm when the opportunities are there.

Will that lead to a victory? I don’t know. The Leafs aren’t exactly poised to be victorious against these guys. But it will wear them down, if nothing else, and given that the Habs are three wins away from breaking Toronto’s shared start-of-season win streak record (10-0 in 93/94, shared with the 06/07 Sabres), any opportunity to cool their jets is worth taking.

Broadcast

This one is going on CBC. The two biggest hockey markets on Earth, and one of them is running away with the standings right now. Did you really expect otherwise? The puck drops shortly after 7PM.

  • Gary Empey

    Jeff I felt kind of sorry for you as you got no responses but then again I get it as true Toronto sports fans have been cheering on the playoff Jays, playoffs, playoffs, what a concept and next week the playoff bound and improving Raptors start their season.

    But on a serious vain the interest in the leafs continues to sag since the club quit on management and the fans last January. This team looks like an A.H.L. club with Bernier continuing his amazing streak of allowing the ultimate sieve goal a game. Yep scores 3 to 2 and bingo he gets beat on a goal that a 13 year could stop.

    But heh the good news is the bum is playing his way out of the league.