The Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 season starts on October 13. This is the first of nine games, including two back-to-back contests in October, minus the earlier preseason games. As excited as we all are for the return of hockey, not everyone can set aside 27 hours in the next three weeks to watch all nine games. Plus, there’s playoff baseball, NFL Sundays, NASCAR playoffs, the start of the NBA season, etc. Oh and don’t forget about work, and of course, spending time with your family and friends.
Life is busy; that’s why I’ve marked out three must-watch Toronto Maple Leafs’ games this month. These games are worth changing your schedule, skipping other activities, sitting down with the TV, computer, or phone, and donating three hours of your life. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage you to watch every game.
Montreal Canadiens vs Maple Leafs: October 13, 2021
This one is kind of obvious, it’s the season opener, the home opener, and it’s against the rival Montreal Canadiens. However, I strongly suggest you skip the pregame unless you want a recap of last season’s playoff disappointment. You may recall the Canadiens came back from a 3-1 series deficit to upset the Maple Leafs. The pregame will include several regurgitated sound bites we’ve heard dozens of times and several shots of emotional players. There may be the mention of 135 days between that game seven and this season opener as well.
Besides the obvious, this will be a great game because it’s game one. It is crucial to get off to a good start, see how the new lines work together and test the strategies. It’s still unclear if Auston Matthews will be a go for the opener as he has stated that his wrist is not where he hoped it would be at this point of recovery. On the other side, it’s a different-looking Habs team. Carey Price will not be in the net after entered the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance program. Shea Weber is also out for the season.
New York Rangers vs Maple Leafs: October 18, 2021
This pick is not so obvious. October 18 will mark 435 days since Toronto played any non-Canadian-based team. The New York Rangers cross the border with players we haven’t watched compete in a long time. It will be a nice change to see Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox play against the Maple Leafs. No offence to the other six Canadian teams, but we are a bit sick of you.
Maple Leafs vs Pittsburgh Penguins: October 23, 2021
For the first time since March 6, 2020, the Maple Leafs will play outside of Canada. So when the puck drops against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it will signify much more than just a game, but a sense of a return to (I hate to say it) normalcy. This is also the first time these two teams have met since February 20, 2020.
However, Pittsburgh will be without Evgeni Malkin, who will start the season on the injured reserve list. In addition, it’s not known if Sidney Crosby will be healthy and back in the lineup for this game. That said, the Pens still have a lot of good players to watch, including former Maple Leaf Kasperi Kapanen.
Maple Leafs vs Carolina Hurricanes: October 25, 2021
Yes, I know this is the fourth game on the three-game must-watch list, but feel free to scrap any of the first three and just watch this one. The Maple Leafs will play against Frederik Andersen and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Big Dane, who guarded the crease for five seasons in Toronto, will face his teammates and friends in one of the most highly anticipated games of the season.
Adding to the intrigue, Petr Mrazek will go up against his old team, too. Toronto and Carolina essential did a goalie swap in the offseason but did so through free agency. Andersen was asking for too much from Toronto and signed with the Hurricanes for two years and $4.5 million a season. While Mrazek signed a three-year deal with Toronto that average $3.8 million a season. The Canes fell just short of the President’s Trophy last season. They are a highly-skilled, fast team that will test Toronto. This game is the one to watch in October.
|Home Team||Away Team||Date|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Montreal Canadiens||Oct. 13|
|Ottawa Senators||Toronto Maple Leafs||Oct. 14|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Ottawa Senators||Oct. 16|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||New York Rangers||Oct. 18|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||San Jose Sharks||Oct. 22|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Toronto Maple Leafs||Oct. 23|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Toronto Maple Leafs||Oct. 25|
|Chicago Blackhawks||Toronto Maple Leafs||Oct. 27|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Detroit Red Wings||Oct. 30|
Another game worthly of the must-watch list is on October 27 against the Chicago Blackhawks. However, I’m already pushing my luck with having four games on a three-game list. But won’t it be fun to watch Marc-Andre Fleury and Patrick Kane?! I’ll confess. I watch every game, sometimes twice. But I’ve got a great excuse. It’s so I can write more for the readers of the Hockey Writers. Enjoy!
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.