Hockey is back! And just the way it should be, the Canadiens will be hosting the Maple Leafs Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The game starts at 7:00 and can be seen on CBC and RDS.
The Habs and Leafs squared off six times last season splitting the series 3-3. They met in the final match of the season on April 7 last year, with the Canadiens taking that game 4-1. It was the last time either team was in action.
Saturday’s match is the first of four between the Habs and Leafs in the shortened season.
What to Watch:
Hockey for one thing. Canadian winters are long and cold, but they feel even longer and colder without hockey. Renewing one of the NHL’s oldest rivalries is a perfect way to warm up the blood.
Once the puck drops, Habs fans will be excited to see last year’s number 3 draft pick, Alex Galchenyuk, getting his first taste of NHL action. The power forward will be playing the wing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
It will also be interesting to see if the top trio of Erik Cole, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty can maintain on the chemistry they developed last season or if the extended vacation has taken its toll.
What’s at Stake:
The Habs and Leafs have a lot in common to start the new season. Both missed the playoffs last year, both have new GMs and new coaches, although for the Leafs, Randy Carlyle was behind the bench for the last 18 games of 2011-2012. That said both teams will be hoping to start the season on the right foot to make up for past disappointment.
Although Carey Price and Tomas Plekanec missed a bit of action during training camp, the Canadiens will be a healthy group heading into opening night. But even with an empty clinic, there will still be a couple of notable absences in the roster. PK Subban and Scott Gomez will both be out of the Canadiens lineup Saturday, but for completely different reasons. PK Subban still hasn’t signed a contract which will keep him out of action for the time being. On the other hand, Scott Gomez’s contract finally became too much to bear, he was placed on waivers this week and his contract was bought out by the team, freeing up some much needed cap space for next season.
For the Leafs, Jake Gardiner will miss the opening game. The young defenseman is suffering from post-concussion symptoms. That’s bad news for the Leafs, Gardiner was a bright spot for the team, notching 30 points last season, tops among rookie defensemen.
Besides Alex Galchenyuk, a couple of other players will be making the Montreal Canadiens debuts Saturday night. Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong will get their first taste of a friendly Bell Centre crowd when the puck drops. Meanwhile, head coach Michel Therrien and defenseman Francis Bouillion are making their returns to Montreal after long absences.
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.