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Gameday: Maple Leafs host the Canadiens

It was bound to happen. The Habs are here.

The Toronto Maple Leafs open their training camp for the 2022-23 season Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montréal Canadiens

7 pm at Scotiabank Arena

Watch on: SN1, RDS

Opponent’s site: Habs Eyes on the Prize

Hello, Maple Leafs fans, it’s a preseason gameday and I am excited. No, really, I am enjoying this preseason likely for the same reasons a recent article called the Leafs boring. There isn’t any major drama that gets everyone in a spin, but there are interesting players to watch. There’s too many players, which is better than too few — particularly when they all start taking days off for things even you or I would “play through”.

The teams are not full of AHL fourth liners, and there isn’t (so far) a lot of incidents that bring out the famous wheel of discipline and our friends at the Department of Player Safety.

Oh, hey, there they are:

Five grand will learn him up. This, from game 2, is the only thing that’s gotten a lot of attention on the Leafs so far:

Them

The Habs.

I don’t think I’m being a homer and remembering this wrong, but when the Leafs tanked, picked first and then started working hard at becoming the best team in the NHL, the reaction to their every move was to examine it with a microscope and critically dissect every single act on the radio, TV and during games played by other teams. We’re used to that, there’s more of us than there are fans of six random other teams combined. We lived through it, and a lot of that time was really fun despite that endless Nylander trade stuff.

But the tone of the discussion about the Habs doing the identical things in the identical way is one of hushed reverence like it’s a pregame ceremony that never ends. You came last? check. You drafted the obvious number one overall? uhhhhh. You got a new GM and coach? check, check. The GM is a New Man™? check. You slid the bad contracts onto permanent LTIR? check. The coach is a maverick? Well, the Leafs got there eventually, but check. And boy is this Saint Marty stuff ever reminiscent of the Sheldon Keefe invented hockey business that we all lived through.

Did you know that Marty doesn’t put the drills on the whiteboard? He sends them to the guys the night before. Marty invented email. Lets clasp our hands and swoon.

There’s nothing new about this, just like the Leafs were doing the Penguins shuffle from back in the day. It’s not amazing or glorious or a rebirth or the rejuvenation of the holy gods of Montréal hockey. It’s crass cashing in on the rules the NHL puts there to favour the wealthy teams who drive the economy of the league. It’s as self-serving and envelope pushing as anything Chicago or Toronto have ever done. Put the harp back in storage.

Sorry, I ah, just had to get that out.

The team the Glorious Habs have sent to Toronto is still a mystery, but they put Joel Armia on their graphic for the game and these are the goalies:

Oh and another hint:

Us

Now that I’ve said I was all excited for this game, comes the big reveal. This lineup puts the pre in preseason.

William Nylander is likely the fourth most important Leafs forward, and Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie are a legitimate top pair, so there are a few meaningful NHLers here, but then the forward corps devolves into every guy gunning for a roster spot (minus the injured Adam Gaudette) and the big-hitting, hyphenated, defensive specialists Nicolas Aubé-Kubel and Zach Aston-Reese. With David Kämpf not on this roster, the centre depth is going to be interestingly shallow.

As for the defence this might be Victor Mete’s chance. I hesitate to say last chance, because there are four more games after this one, and a lot can happen, but big-hitting, unhyphenated Jordie Benn already has the edge on next man up for his “simple game”.

And so, how are you... how have you been, nice day, eh?

Okay fine, I have to talk about the goalies, I will talk about the goalies. Matt Murray makes his debut. I don’t know what it means that he’s paired with the clear number three on the Leafs here. That’s either a serious pair of goalies for a rough around the edges team or a less than ringing endorsement of Murray’s readiness.

The expectation for all of us who are familiar with how the NHL works is that Murray is the starter at least at the 1A level of a tandem with Ilya Samsonov until someone firmly takes that job away from him. This isn’t a controversy — this is how you should decide who to play the most in a situation like this. Murray’s job here is to just be as blandly okay-looking as Samsonov was in his first game. He doesn’t need to be perfect just because Samsonov pitched a shutout in his two periods.

The Game

Speaking of pregame ceremonies, apparently the Leafs have a full blown case of the disease and there’s going to be one. Members of the Summit Series team will be honoured on the 50th anniversary of the Paul Henderson goal. I actually remember these hockey games, and I find this homage to it right at this particular geopolitical time a little weird and superficial. If you loved those games, well, the Leafs have a ceremony for you!

As for the rest of it, the point is to be terrified every time someone gets near Matt Murray with the puck and to make up Leafs rosters for opening night with William Nylander at left wing. (What if out 2LW was here all the time?)

Go Leafs Go!

Poll

Will you watch every move Murray makes?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Through my fingers, sure
    (31 votes)
  • 27%
    Fearlessly and with a bottle of vodka tucked into the sofa cushions
    (59 votes)
  • 20%
    Also every breath he takes.
    (44 votes)
  • 13%
    Every game he plays
    (28 votes)
  • 10%
    Every step he makes
    (23 votes)
  • 13%
    I don’t get this joke and I also don’t remember 1972
    (30 votes)
215 votes total Vote Now