Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montréal Canadiens - Round 1, Game 1
7:30 PM on CBC, Sportsnet and streaming at CBC Gem. The game is on NHLN in the US and available on NHL Live online
We’ve waited patiently for the Flames and the Canucks to undergo the NHL’s peculiar torture, and now finally it’s our turn at this playoffs thing. Is this what it’s like celebrating Orthodox Christmas?
Sheldon Keefe has kept to a standard set of lines and special teams units over the last few days of practices, only making changes as players come off the injured list. And they have all suddenly appeared healthy and refreshed in an amazing feat of good timing. As of yesterday, the Leafs have no one on LTIR.
Maple Leafs Lines
All signs point to this being the lineup we’ll see tonight:
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Nick Foligno - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Riley Nash - Alexander Kerfoot
Joe Thornton - Jason Spezza - Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Zach Bogosian
Jack Campbell will start his first ever NHL playoff game tonight. He has 12 AHL playoff games played with the Texas Stars and the Ontario Reign, but this is his NHL debut. He had one run in the OHL for Windsor, but didn’t play the year he was with the Soo Greyhounds.
(Sorry, there’s music and commentary both, you might want to mute)
As mentioned off the top in that video, Campbell set a consecutive wins record that beat Carey Price. And much like the injured crew of Maple Leafs, Price is back for game one as well.
Their most recent practice lines look like this:
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Tofolli - Nick Suzuki - Joel Armia
Corey Perry - Eric Staal - Josh Anderson
Paul Byron - Jake Evans - Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry
Jon Merrill - Shea Weber
Brett Kulak - Ben Chiarot
Some things to note: Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield have been relocated to the pressbox with the black aces, and Jonathan Drouin seems likely to remain unavailable.
The reunited top line is good news for the Canadiens, as that was their best line this season by such a large margin, it’s really all they have. Suzuki is very good, and he does a decent impression of a centre carrying a line, but Suzuki with two excellent wingers would be a top six line, whereas this ends up a good third line. They are troublesome to the Leafs depth, however.
That third line is a terrible thing to do to Josh Anderson, and I frankly think it’s a big mistake, but good, we like those when the other guy makes them. The fourth line should be aggressive and dangerous, and they just are not, and no one really seems to know why.
There’s some dispute if Weber and Merrill are the second or third pair, but the way they rotate their defence, it hardly makes a difference. Notably absent is rookie defender Alexander Romanov, who has been very good by my reckoning this year, but everything about this roster construction for game one screams out conservative choices made by a coach with the interim tag still attached. Price is not confirmed as starter, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine he won’t be.
We know what cards we have in our hand. We know how they play the game. Let’s go.
And now the word from Sheldon Keefe:
Keefe confirms Bogosian is back tonight. On sitting Galchenyuk, Engvall, Dermott for Game 1: "Tough decisions. We are sitting some good players who have been good assets."— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) May 20, 2021
Sheldon Keefe on not trying to shelter Matthews vs. Danault:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 20, 2021
"I don't feel the need to protect Auston from anybody. He and Mitch, they need to take on the most difficult matchups, and they've found a way to succeed in those matchups."