Toronto Maple Leafs @ Montreal Canadiens
Bell Centre; Montreal, QC
7:00 PM ET; CBC (National)
SBN Opposing Fans: Habs Eyes on the Prize (offer not valid since 1993)
The Leafs visit Montreal to take on the NHL's most self-proclaimed storied franchise, which is also the victim of a self-proclaimed vast league and officiating conspiracy every year, in virtually every game. How can a team be the hallowed crown jewel of the league, yet so thoroughly despised by the NHL moreso than any other team? I don't know; maybe Quebec's language laws allow you to say one thing in English, and another thing in French.
The Leafs, whom everyone expected to suck this year, are doing just that, and doing it well. They currently sit 29th in the league with 52 points. The Habs, however, also sit out of a playoff spot with 62 points. The difference, however, is that this was a team expected to be a contender and was pretty much handed the Stanley Cup nine games into the season, so this is bloody hilarious.
Of course, through all this collapsing, the rallying cry of "at least we're not Leafs fans!" is hilarious, if only because they're reduced to comparing themselves to a team trying to suck in the first place. For extra fun, count the points accumulated by each team since November 1. After a torrid start in Montreal (and an awful start in Toronto), the Leafs have 48 points to the Habs' 42. The Habs, a team their fans shoved down our collective throats 10% of the way into the season, have accumulated less points over a 50+ game stretch than a team which entered this season with a game plan of "be bad at hockey." Quelle domage, Habitants!
The fans, however, will keep themselves warm with thoughts of those 24 Cups they won, the last coming in 1993. For all their mockery of "1967," 1993 was also an awfully long time ago. Hell, our lord and saviour William Nylander wasn't even born yet! But, they will go on and on about those precious and storied Cups. You see, Habs fans are that high school jock who pines for the good old days, when he was a somebody. He talks a big game about crushing brews and feeling up a cheerleader at a party in Dave Mankowski's parents' basement to get him through his shift bagging groceries at Till 3 of the Stop N Shop. Paper, not plastic, Habs fans.
As for the actual game, P.A. Parenteau is still here, playing in what we can only assume will be his last game in blue and white (for this year, anyway?). I, for one, hope we send him out with a hero's exit: dropping a hat trick on his former team and mooning Michel Therrien, then after the game, catching a Jay-Z-driven chopper to Brooklyn on the Bell Centre roof while it concurrently rains draft picks over Toronto.
The Habs are down two bodies, having traded Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to Chicago. When asked about the trade, Weise said: "I'm so damn glad to go to a team whose fans are entitled dickwads because they pine over Cups their team won in this decade." Fleischmann added: "I missed 35 games with a blood clot in 2011, and that still beat playing for this gong show for the last two months."
Matt Hunwick will draw back in for the Leafs, presumably because: (a) Morgan Rielly missed having a cinderblock tied to his ankle to drag him down; and, (b) the Leafs desperately needed someone to take the faceoff for the 45-minute pregame ceremony honouring that time they beat the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs.
Probable Leafs Lineup
Babcock said Jonathan Bernier will get his second consecutive start after a good game against Carolina. Hunwick draws back in, and is expected to play with Rielly. Today's morning skate, per Mark Masters:
Grabner - Kadri - Komarov
Leivo - Arcobello - Parenteau
Greening - Holland - Winnik
Leipsic - Froese - Boyes
Hunwick - Rielly
Gardiner - Marincin
Percy - Corrado
Probable Puke City Lineup
The Habs have some injury issues on the blueline, having lost Jeff Petry for the season. Phillip Danault, the piece coming from Chicago in the Weise trade, is expected to play tonight. Not Carey Price will start in net.
Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk - Lars Eller - Sven Andrighetto
Paul Byron - Jacob De La Rose - Michael McCarron
Torrey Mitchell - Phillip Danault - Devante Smith-Pelly
Victor Bartley - Mark Barberio
The Leafs will probably lose, but what if they don't? I hope Plekanec cries into his stupid turtleneck.
Throwback Leafs Highlight
February 9, 2013 in Montreal. The Leafs beat the Habs 6-0, and in his career highlight, Frazer McLaren pummeled Josh Gorges while laughing at how puny and inferior he was. In my objective, unbiased opinion, this was the greatest regular season game in the history of hockey.