Maple Leafs Trying to Tamp Down the Habs Series Hype

The Toronto Maple Leafs will meet the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs for the first time since 1979. You are already well aware of that if you’ve been on social media or around a Maple Leafs or Canadiens fan. While hockey fans, broadcasters, and advertisers are buzzing about this round one series, the Maple Leafs are not. “I’m just gonna focus on the Ottawa Senators here tonight,” said Sheldon Keefe when asked about the series. “If I answer those questions now, what are you gonna ask me for the next eight days or nine days before we started playing?”

Montreal Canadiens Brett Kulak Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares
Montreal Canadiens defenceman Brett Kulak and Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

Given that answer, you can see why Keefe would be trying to curb the enthusiasm. The excitement will only grow with more than a week until the series starts. Just minutes after the Winnipeg Jets clinched the third seed, cementing the Toronto versus Montreal series, the teams began trending on social media. “Honestly. I just try to stay off all the social media,” said Mitch Marner. “It has good aspects, I think for some things. But it’s also a very bad thing sometimes, or most times really. So, for me, I’m just trying to stay off all that stuff.” Marner looked nearly asleep while be being pressed to give an answer about the series. He stuck to his talking points and slowly droned on, “like I said, we have two games, we’re not gonna talk about the series until this series comes.”

One of the Best Rivalries in Sports

If you’re new to the sport, this match-up is like Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers versus the Dallas Cowboys, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics. They are such long-time rivals that most fans don’t even know why they despise the other team. It’s just been ingrained in them since they can remember. That’s what makes the Montreal versus Toronto match up so fierce, mainly among fans. Back in the black and white TV days and maybe someone holding the antenna in a certain way to get the picture just right, hockey fans have been watching the Habs and the Leafs. As technology improved and the sport expanded, Saturday night was still reserved for these two teams. They have played 757 regular-season games against each other Montreal has won 344, Toronto 307 and the rest have been ties or overtime losses.

Second-period brawl between Toronto and Montreal in game one of the 1965 playoffs.

Travis Dermott went off script, “it’s the Leafs versus the Habs. It’s everything you want in a playoff series. Yeah, it’s exciting for us,” Dermott said. He addressed the long-standing competition between the clubs, “It’s something that people can relate to and think about a rivalry pretty much whenever hockey started between these two teams. It’s going to be fun for everyone, I think.” The first time these two franchises met was December 26, 1917.

More Chapters will be Added to this Long Story

The 24-year-old defenseman said the history alone makes it a good series. Still, he thinks this season added another chapter to the story, “we’ve had some good battles this year that are just going to add to the fire.” Toronto won seven of the ten games between the two this season. The Maple Leafs outscored the Canadiens, 34-24, but Montreal outhit Toronto 321-195. “Even if you didn’t watch a game this season,” said Dermott, “Leafs – Habs rivalry is imminent and always there in the back of your mind. It’s going to be huge. Just playing those jerseys against each other and then all the battles we had this season is just going to add on top of that, so I’m excited for the series.”

While Dermott didn’t stick to the speaking lines of downplaying the excitement, he put words to the feelings growing inside the Leafs’ Locker room and throughout Leafs Nation. This is just the beginning; imagine how excited both teams and their loyal fans will be by the time the puck drops.