Game Day: Canadiens @ Maple Leafs
The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs will once again do battle tonight, this time on the night that Mats Sundin's jersey number goes to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre. These two teams have been in different places all season, with the Maple Leafs fighting for a playoff spot and the Canadiens struggling to even come close. This is a welcome change, of course, for Maple Leafs fans, for which the situation is usually flipped, but for Habs fans, it's an unusual and painful experience.
Tonight the oldest and most historic rivalry in the NHL is reborn, and both teams desperately need this win. For the Maple Leafs, they are just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals, and after dropping two straight they really need to avoid going any deeper into this slump. As for the Canadiens, it seemed that their playoff hopes were as good as dead after losing three straight games after the All Star break, but after fighting back with a three-game win streak, there is perhaps a slight bit of hope. While it is very improbable, and would take a herculean effort for the Canadiens to reach the post-season, a win tonight might make all the difference.
If the Canadiens want to continue to win and make a push for the playoffs, they have to stop letting up in the third period. It has been a problem with the team all season, and almost cost them a win against the New York Islanders on Thursday night. It seems no matter how well the Canadiens play through the first two periods, they let the opponents come back in the third, and it's cost them two points many times throughout the season. If the Habs want to win this game, not to mention more in order to make that push, they have to figure it out and play a solid 60 minutes consistently, night in and night out.
The Maple Leafs will again look to their first line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul, who have been red hot this season. The trio have combined for 152 points so far this season, and have combined for 10 goals in the Leafs' last four games. Meanwhile the Canadiens will hope for another great showing from Max Pacioretty and his line-mates David Desharnais and Erik Cole, who are numbers one through three in team scoring on the Habs roster.
While the goalies haven't been confirmed at the time of writing this, you can imagine it will be a fierce battle for the men between the pipes. Carey Price will, in all likelihood get the call for the Canadiens, and he has been great for the Habs as of late. For the Leafs, it could be either Gustavsson or Reimer, who have been battling neck and neck to be the Leafs' real number one guy all season.
The game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 PM Eastern, and you can catch it live on CBC and RDS!