The Canadiens (6-3-1) welcome the Maple Leafs (6-5-0) back to the Bell Centre Saturday night looking for a better result than they had in the season opener. The game starts at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.
This is the second of 5 meetings between these bitter rivals, the Leafs skated away with a 2-1 victory in the season opener. All three goals in the game were scored with the man advantage, the game winner scored while Tomas Plekanec was in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after snowing Leafs goalie, Ben Scrivens.
What to Watch:
Plekanec continues to pile on the points this season, adding a pair of goals in Thursday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Sabres giving him 6 goals and 10 points in 10 games. Pleks is one of 4 Habs with a point per game, Andrei Markov has 4 goals and 10 points in his 10 games, Max Pacioretty has 6 assists through 6 contests and PK Subban has 2 goals and 2 assists since rejoining the lineup 4 games ago.
Phil Kessel has been off to a slow start by his standards this season, but he finally managed to find the back of the net and score his first goal of the season Thursday night against the Jets. Kessel has had 4 straight seasons with 30 goals or more and led the Leafs in points in each of the 3 years he’s been with the team. New addition James Van Riemsdyk has picked up some of the slack for Kessel, JVR has 6 goals on the year.
What’s at Stake:
Pride and bragging rights are always on the line when the Habs and Leafs square off, but there’s more on the line than just pride this time around. Only one point separates the two teams in the standings, with Montreal narrowly ahead.
This is the last of six straight games for the Canadiens against division rivals, an important stretch for the team. The Habs are 2-2-1 over the first five games and a win against the Leafs would certainly help them end the stretch on a positive note.
Josh Gorges was shaken up pretty badly and had to leave the ice after a Tyler Ennis hit in the first period of Thursday’s game but returned in time for the start of the second. Ryan White didn’t suffer any visible injuries Thursday, but he did suffer a mental breakdown midway through the third, taking a double minor penalty for the second time in two appearances. His double minor against the Senators kept him out of the lineup for 3 games as a healthy scratch, his play against Buffalo could have a similar effect.
The Leafs are missing Joffrey Lupul (arm), Mike Brown (shoulder) and defenseman Carl Gunnarson (groin).
The Canadiens have led in at least a portion of every game this year except their season opener against Toronto. They’ve scored first in 8 of the 10 games they’ve played and have taken leads into the third period 7 times. Montreal led at the start of the third in the last two games they played but were unable to win either.
It’s a dangerous trend to set, last season the Canadiens lost 9 of 33 games they led going into the third and only managed to win 20 of the 41 games they scored first in, giving them the worst winning percentage in the league when scoring first.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren.