In their six games against the Toronto Maple Leafs so far this season, the Montréal Canadiens have only managed two victories. The home-and-home series against the Leafs in February that was supposed to prove whether or not the Canadiens had what it takes to win the North Division did not turn out in their favour. Since then, the Maple Leafs have consistently trended upwards while the Habs have largely plummeted.
Dominque Ducharme’s boys have struggled with consistency while the Leafs continued to roll along with the help of some truly spectacular play from goaltender Jack Campbell. Montréal’s latest 4-2 victory over their forever rivals should help with their team morale and provide a much-needed boost for the final stretch.
If nothing else, the Habs’ victory over new Maple Leafs superstar netminder Jack Campbell should give them the boost they so desperately need right now. Campbell had previously won 11 straight starts and had already broken the record set by the Canadiens’ Carey Price in 2016-17.
The win against the Maple Leafs constituted Campbell’s first loss in over a month, and ended the Leafs’ six-game win streak and their 10-game point streak, as they’d managed a record of 9-0-1. The victory against one of the league’s best teams to (at least) temporarily halt the dominant advance of the Maple Leafs demonstrates the Habs’ ability to play with the big guns.
Monday’s win against the Maple Leafs might have been the most balanced game the Canadiens have played all season. From an offensive standpoint, it seems like the entire team got involved. Forward Tomas Tatar potted two goals, Philip Danault and Jonathan Drouin added an assist each, and Paul Byron had two apples of his own. The Canadiens’ big gun Josh Anderson also got in on the scoring party, notching his 15th goal of the season. Rookie Nick Suzuki added a power-play goal as well.
The Habs, for the most part, kept themselves out of penalty trouble, only taking two penalties across the 60 minutes, both for tripping. They successfully killed both penalties, neutralizing the Maple Leafs’ superstars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the power play. Goaltender Jake Allen made 23 saves in his fourth straight start in Carey Price’s absence as the latter recovers from a lower-body injury.
Danault called Monday’s victory a “character win” for his squad and noted that the Habs needed a victory to bounce back from their recent slumps. Anderson echoed his teammate’s words, saying the Canadiens came out at the start of the game with the intention to dictate the game’s pace and did so successfully “for the most part.”
Allen recognized that the win over the Leafs could be the start of a momentum swing for the Canadiens, saying that while it’s only one victory, “you’ve got to keep building and finding a way to get better every day [and] I think there’s room for that.”
Stu Cowan of the Montréal Gazette noted that the win against the Leafs was “bigger than just two points.” It allowed them to widen the gap in the standings on the encroaching Calgary Flames who now sit eight points behind the Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NorthDivision (From “Canadiens Game Day: Habs Rebound with a Big Win Over Maple Leafs” Stu Cowan. Montréal Gazette. 13/04/2021).
If the Canadiens can parlay this win against Toronto into a sustained effort and consecutive victories, they’ll be in good shape for the season’s final stretch and the start of the playoffs, where they may have to face the Maple Leafs again.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.