Yet another back-to-back for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has the franchise playing their first home game since the won a thrilling Centennial Classic on New Years Day against the Detroit Red Wings. The Leafs are coming off a 4-2 win on Friday night in Newark and will look to continue their climb in the Atlantic Division when they take on their long-time rival – the Montreal Canadiens – on Saturday.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams this season with Montreal taking the first two by identical 2-1 scores. This will be the firs time this season that the two meet in Toronto with their final matchup of the season taking place February 25 at the Air Canada Centre as well.
The Leafs will yet again rely on their rookies to get the offence going as three of their top four scorers are first-year players. Auston Matthews leads the team with 35 points (21g-14a) in 38 games while Mitch Marner and William Nylander round out the top four on Toronto with 29 points and 26 points respectively.
In net, Frederik Andersen will likely get the call as the Leafs look to tack on a couple more points after jumping into a playoff spot at the midway point of the season. So far this year, Andersen has played in 32 games with a record of 17-8-7 with a 2.61 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
Toronto jumped into third in the Atlantic following their win against the Devils on Friday night. They sit tied with Ottawa for second in the division (while the Senators have a game in hand) and just 10 points back of the division leading Canadiens who’ve played 39 games so far this season.
While the Leafs remain without the services of Ben Smith and Martin Marincin, the Canadiens have been hit harder by the injury bug as of late. They will be without a number of regulars with Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron recently being added to that list. With that, the team recalled Sven Andrighetto and Nikita Scherbak who could see his first NHL action since being drafted in the first round back in 2014.
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs
Air Canada Centre – 7:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CBC and TVAS
2016-17 Season Series:
October 29 – Canadiens 2 – Maple Leafs 1
November 19 – Canadiens 2 – Maple Leafs 1
Montreal Canadiens – 24-9-6 – 54 Points
Road Record: 9-6-4
Hot Players: Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov and Shea Weber
Key Injuries: Paul Byron, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Andrei Markov, Greg Pateryn and Andrew Shaw
Max Pacioretty-Phillip Danault-Alexander Radulov
Artturi Lehkonen-Tomas Plekanec-Sven Andrighetto
Daniel Carr-Torrey Mitchell-Brian Flynn
Bobby Farnham-Michael McCarron-Nikita Scherbak
Alexei Emelin-Shea Weber
Nathan Beaulieu-Jeff Petry
Mark Barberio-Ryan Johnston
Toronto Maple Leafs – 18-12-8 – 44 Points
Home Record: 10-6-2
Hot Players: Auston Matthews, Connor Brown and Nazem Kadri
Key Injuries: Joffrey Lupul, Martin Marincin and Ben Smith
Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-William Nylander
Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin-Frederik Gauthier-Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly-Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner-Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick-Roman Polak
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]These two clubs have met so many time over the years. In fact, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens have met 734 times since the two teams began their existence in the NHL with Montreal dominating their head-to-head matchup. The Leafs hold a record of 293-340-88-13 against Montreal over that span and have been out scored 2,246 to 2,028.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]The last time the Leafs beat the Canadiens was back on January 19, 2014 when they won 5-3. Since then, Montreal has won 12 straight games against Toronto outscoring them 41-22 over that span.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap]Leafs rookies have accounted for 58 of the team’s 117 goals. That’s nearly 50 percent of the club’s offensive output. Matthews (21) and Marner (10) have already reached double digits, while Brown (9), Nylander (8) and Hyman (5) are all having impressive seasons so far as well.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]Frederik Andersen has faced the second most shots this season (1,043) behind only Edmonton’s Cam Talbot (1,100) However, Talbot has played in four more games than the Leafs net minder. While this isn’t good news for the Leafs’ defensive play, Andersen also sits second in saves (960) and among the top ten in save percentage (.920).
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap]Leafs’ Tyler Bozak needs just one point to tie Steve Thomas and Nik Antropov for 36th on the franchise’s all-time points list. Two more would give him sole possession of 36th just five back of Bryan McCabe and Tom Fergus.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]6)[/miptheme_dropcap]Habs’ forward Tomas Plekanec needs just two goals to pass Guy Carbonneau for 19th on Montreal’s all-time list. Pacioretty also needs just two goals to pass Pierre Mondou for 25th on the team’s all-time list. On top of that, Plekanec needs just one point to give himself sole possession of 17th on the team’s all-time points list with 570 (passing Pete Mahovlich).
While there’s a lot on the line for the Leafs, Montreal will also be looking to show just how deep they are this season. After criticisms in past seasons regarding their ability to get it done without some of their top players, the Habs certainly don’t want to see a similar story progress this season.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.