Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
The Toronto Maple Leafs aim to keep their to streak alive tonight as they close out this week’s brief series with the Montreal Canadiens. The atmosphere surrounding tonight’s game is vastly different from that which surrounded Wednesday, with Montreal falling to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday to the tune of 3-0, while the Leafs have had two days off to bask in the glory of their 4-2 win over their fiercest competition.
Montreal’s loss to Edmonton has sent the team into something of a tailspin, dropping three of their last four games with the sole win being a narrow 2-1 victory over the lowly Ottawa Senators. With points evaporating much quicker than normal in the shortened season and no Vancouver Canucks in their foreseeable future, desperation may start to sink in sooner rather than later. While it may be a little early for Montreal to be circling this matchup as a Must Win, falling behind your toughest competition by seven points early on is likely something that they aren’t looking to do, so look for tonight to be a tight affair.
While no game against the hated Montreal Canadiens is ever truly stress free, tonight feels about as close to zen as one can get. Heading into this two game stanza, the Leafs only needed to take one of two in order to ensure they held onto their division lead. Their win Wednesday coupled with Montreal’s loss Thursday has put them five points clear of the Habs for first in the North Division, meaning even should the Leafs lose tonight, they are still two games clear of Montreal for first. Win streaks, as great as it would be, can’t last forever, but with three games against the Ottawa Senators in the coming week, the Leafs will have ample opportunity to make up any points they would drop should either their four game win streak or nine game point streak come to an end.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs player to watch: Jimmy Vesey and Pierre Engvall
With Joe Thornton on the verge of returning to the lineup, the Leafs will have to make a decision on who comes out in his stead. While Vesey and Engvall haven’t been (for the most part) complete liabilities, they haven’t exactly made strong cases to be staples of the lineup either. A strong game from either could potentially buy them a bit more time in the lineup while another lackluster game could be the straw that break Sheldon Keefe’s back.
Canadiens player to watch: Corey Perry
With the Habs trailing, Corey Perry took a run at Justin Holl with a questionable hit. Look for him to remove his head from the trash can he’s feasting from to try and inject some energy for the Habs as the look to stop their skid.
Leafs starting goalie: Frederik Andersen
Jori had an excellent article
earlier today outlining Andersen’s return to form as a top flight goaltender in the NHL. The resurgent goaltender looks to notch his tenth career win against Montreal.
Canadiens starting goalie: Carey Price
Slowly but surely, Habs fans have begun to sour on the goaltender once considered the face of the franchise. While Andersen has been able to rebound, Price’s save% remains below .900 on the season, and the more the subpar starts pile up, the more Habs fans have been refreshing Carey Price’s Puckpedia to see how much is left on his contract (five years after this one at $10.5 million with a full no movement clause fo those still wondering.)
Coverage starts 7:00 p.m. EST on Sportsnet