LGD: Watch Le Throne

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t really rolling or falling, rather twirling, twirling, twirling towards some unknown form of freedom. The hope is that the final destination is the playoffs, though it could be a near-miss. Or, just maybe, winning the Atlantic Division. Yes, we’re at that level of silly season, where with six weeks left, nothing makes sense.

But the long shot positive could get a lot better tonight with the right result, as the Leafs face the first-seed Canadiens.

The Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

These might change before puck drop. Tyler Bozak has missed the last two skates, Mitch Marner is practicing on defence, and nobody quite knows what’s going on. Maybe Ben Smith draws back in tonight (scary odds). Maybe Marner is actually back (probalby not). Maybe Connor Carrick is back, since he was warming up with Gardiner (light maybe).

Look, the Leafs are mostly going to be the Leafs tonight. It’s just a matter of what incarnation they’ll take total form as.

The Habs

Montreal Canadiens lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

Remember when Claude Julien fixed the Galchenyuk fiasco that Michel Therrien left him? Well, that lasted for like a game. I don’t quite understand the Habs. Based on their recent record, I don’t know if the Habs understand the Habs either.

Starting Goaltenders

Carey Price likely starts for the Habs. He’s had three non-dreadful games in a row, causing some reason to believe that he might be regressing back to being good again, but we also saw this a month ago. Since his last appearance against the Leafs, Price has played 17 games, gone 5-11-1, and posted a 0.899 save percentage.

Frederik Andersen is also on that balance of looking like he’s regaining his stride, but nobody being totally sure. The Rangers game was really encouraging, but we also said that after the Islanders and St. Louis contests. Since the last Habs game, he’s played in 16 games, posted a 7-4-4 record, and has a 0.908 save percentage with two shutouts.

What To Look Out For

A lot is made of the fact that the Leafs haven’t won a game against the Habs in a while. That much is true; they’ve dropped 13 games in a row against them. The last Leafs coach to beat the Habs was Randy Carlyle on January 18th, 2014.

It’s been a while, needless to say. But on the plus side? 13 was the lucky lottery ball that got the Leafs Auston Matthews, and Toronto is 3-0 against Claude Julien this year. Maybe that stuff means something. Maybe it doesn’t.

The points definitely mean something, though. Win tonight and hop to two points back of Montreal with a game in hand, and tie with the Senators.  Lose and the division becomes six points out of reach, and Sunday’s biggest out of town game in the division becomes “do we want the Senators to pull away, or the Panthers to catch up”. 

The Leafs need their crowd to make their ice home ice for this one. The Leafs need themselves in this one. If every game is a big game, this one is Game 7 in the finals big given the stage of the process that the team is in. Puck drop, like many of these Toronto/Montreal showdowns, is at 7:00 PM on Hockey Night in Canada.