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Maple Leafs Game Preview: Will they finally break the Canadiens’ winning streak?

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The Leafs can end a 14-game winning streak against the Habs tonight, and make a statement to the whole league that they are the real deal.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
A super rare shot of JvR actually wearing his mouthguard properly.

MAPLE LEAFS at CANADIENS: Game 5

Time: 7:00 pm EDT
Location: Centre Bell
Broadcast: CBC Hockey Night in Canada
Opponent SBNation Site: Habs Eyes on the Prize

It has now been almost four years since the Leafs defeated the Canadiens. The Habs have a fourteen-game win streak against them, with many of those won on nationally televised Saturday night games.

Imagine if the Leafs finally break that winning streak tonight? What a statement to make to the whole league. “We’re the real deal.”

On the other hand, if they lose again tonight...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitchell Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Eric Fehr - Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Connor Carrick

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

MONTREAL CANADIENS

(from @ArponBasu)

Forward Lines

Max Pacioretty - Jonathan Drouin - Artturi Lehkonen
Paul Byron - Jacob de la Rose - Brendan Gallagher
Charles Hudon - Phillip Danault - Andrew Shaw
Alex Galchenyuk - Torrey Mitchell - Ales Hemsky

Defence Pairings

Victor Mete - Shea Weber
Karl Alzner - Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn - Brandon Davidson

Goaltenders

Carey Price
Al Montoya

Numbers Preview

Toronto Team Montreal
Toronto Team Montreal
6 Goal Differential -8
33.3% - 2nd overall Power Play 0.00% - last overall
81.8% - 17th overall Penalty Kill 78.6% - 20th overall
3 Matthews, van Riemsdyk Most Goals 1 four players tied
3 seven players tied Most Assists 1 three players tied
6 Awesome Matthews Most Points 2 Brendan Gallagher
8 Jake Gardiner Most PM 8 Ales Hemsky
Andersen - .871 SV% Goalies Price - .899 SV%

The Leafs’ spectacular start of three straight wins on the back of a massive showing of offense was torpedoed Wednesday by the New Jersey Devils. While the Devils have certainly upgraded their roster with additions like Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier, it was really the issues the Leafs have had from the start of the season finally catching up with them.

The problem was identified by Katya in this post before Wednesday’s game.

The Leafs laid down three fun games that produced three wins and six points, but only one line did high-quality offence, while one did defence, and that has to change.

Then they lost 6-3 to the Devils and here’s what Arvind wrote in his recap moments after the game ended.

Leafs had a million defensive breakdowns, which has been true in every game thus far. This time, it cost them.

Of course, we’re only in four games, but there are trends developing, and issues to keep an eye on for tonight. Will Kadri’s line still have trouble breaking out to the offensive zone? Will Carrick be a better and pairing for Borgman than Rosén? Will Andersen bump up his low 0.871 all-situations SV%?

This feels like a game the Leafs should win, but may end up losing.

That being said, this seasons’ Habs are not anything like those of seasons past.

The Habs have scored four goals so far this season. Read that again. They have played four games, and scored only four goals. They won their first game 3-2 in a shootout (so only two goals) against the Sabres. That was followed up with a brutal 6-1 loss to the Capitals, a 2-0 shutout loss to the Rangers, and, most recently, a 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

So, only four goals scored, 0% on power-plays, and zero wins in regulation. You can imagine fans in Montreal are already calling for Marc Bregevin’s head. Even more so than Habs fans normally would demand their GM be fired regardless of the team performance.

To be fair, there are weird things going on in Montreal. They signed Mark Streit to a contract this off-season and now they have waived him to the minors, where he reportedly has refused to report and may opt instead to formally retire from hockey.

Claude Julien has demoted Alex Galchenyuk to the fourth line, but it is unclear if he will be playing tonight as he was out of practice yesterday with a surprise “illness”. As of the time of writing, the Habs have yet to confirm if it is the Robidas Island Flu.

Whatever it is, it’s apparently sweeping through the team.

It’s a classic Saturday Hockey Night in Canada match-up with not only pride on the line for the Leafs, but also the ability send a message around the league they are now a team to be both feared and respected.

GO LEAFS GO!