Game #1: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
Place: Scotiabank Arena
Time: 7:00 PM
It’s been a long road through a dark forest, and we’re by no means out of it as a country or as a planet. But for the first time since the summer, there is honest-to-God Leafs hockey to watch. Let’s roll!
Toronto Maple Leafs
Joe Thornton - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Jimmy Vesey - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Alex Kerfoot - Zach Hyman
Jason Spezza - Alexander Barabanov - Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Zach Bogosian
We’ll finally have a chance to see our fancy new acquisitions in action, and whether that third line—which looks like it might be intended as a shutdown group—is actually used defensively...or good at it. For a fulsome discussion of these lines, check out the most recent episode of Back To Excited, where Arvind and I go through each of them.
Tomas Tatar - Philip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin - Nick Suzuki - Josh Anderson
Tyler Toffoli - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Joel Armia
Artturi Lekhonen - Jake Evans - Paul Byron
Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak - Alexander Romanov
The Habs forward group is a good news/bad news situation for opponents. The good news: it doesn’t have a ton of elite scoring talent. The twelve players involved have had one 60-point season between them, from when Tatar hit 61 points last season; John Tavares by himself has had nine. The bad news: they do control play very well and they are deep. That top line, especially, cleaned opponents out on the shot clock all last year and, not coincidentally, outscored them. Every winger in the lineup has at least a modest amount of scoring ability, even if none of them is dynamite. Their best case scenario might be something like the 2009-10 Buffalo Sabres, who had zero players score 30 goals, but had twelve of them score at least 10, and won their division. Yes, kids, the Sabres were once good.
The defence is fairly solid with two aging but skilled RHD anchoring the top two pairings in Weber and Petry. Ben Chiarot has worked well with Weber in the past, while Joel Edmundson will be looking to be less hilarious to Leaf fans than that signing seemed to be last summer. Alexander Romanov is sparkling new defence prospect for the Habs, and he’s been put with Brett Kulak to form an “enemies of the Bolsheviks” pairing.
Carey Price is in net. At his best he’s still a fantastic goaltender, although he’s been at his best somewhat less in recent years, especially when facing Auston Matthews. Still, I can’t say it’s as much fun as getting to take shots at, I don’t know, late stage Jimmy Howard.
As much as I’ve made fun of them, the Habs are a better team than their 24th-place finish last year made them look—I have them finishing second in the division this year—and home ice advantage isn’t what it normally is given the lack of fans in the arena. Still, the Leafs should be the better team, and it would be nice if they started the season by acting like it.
Go Leafs Go!