Montréal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: TVAS, SN

The Leafs last real game was months ago, and best forgotten. The Leafs have a record of 0-0-0 so far this season.

The Montréal Canadiens last played a preseason away game on October 7 against the Ottawa Senators. The Canadiens won by a score of 6-4, and their current regular season league record is 0-0-0.


Ah, the Habs. We meet again, and it's well, it's been too many years, too many games, too much of you vs us and us vs you and we're like a couple who've now been divorced longer than they were married. We both still hate Boston and that's the only thing we have left in common.


Guillaume Lefrançois via Daily Faceoff

Cole Caufield - Nick Suzuki - Josh Anderson
Alex Newhook - Kirby Dach - Juraj Slafkovsky
Tanner Pearson - Sean Monahan - Brendan Gallagher
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard - Jake Evans - Jesse Ylönen

Michael Matheson - David Savard
Kaiden Guhle - Johnathan Kovacevic
Jordan Harris - Arber Xhekaj

Jake Allen - confirmed starter
Sam Montembeault or Cayden Primeau - unconfirmed


It's Fraser Minten Day! His family are coming in to watch his debut, and this is going to be so cool. The rest of the lineup is now very old hat after this century's longest training camp.


Tyler Bertuzzi - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Max Domi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Matt Knies - Fraser Minten - Calle Järnkrok
Ryan Reaves - David Kämpf - Noah Gregor

Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe - John Klingberg
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren

Ilya Samsonov - does not need to be confirmed
Joe Woll

The Game

Who even knows what will happen in a hockey game? Maybe a team wins with a bad goalie or loses with a good one. Maybe the puck goes in or it doesn't. When we watch the outcome, we are watching all that goes into the game on purpose as well as all the random stuff that you can't plan for, you just endure.

But the planning part is what training camp is all about. Here is some analysis about defensive process from training camp. Not defence as a discussion of defenders only and not results where transitions skills in the neutral zone get stirred together with defensive zone play, but the concept that underlies the in-zone defending.

This is the first pair of tweets, riffing off some comments by various media about defensive styles:

If you play the little videos, you can see that the top system chooses to keep the defenders at net-front and relies on the F1 (often the centre, but not necessarily the centre) to do the big positional move to get back to his zone.

Watching Tampa beat Nashville, a much weaker team, by controlling the zone in this way worked for them dramatically well at first, but then the Predators dominated for a period before the third period full of power plays decided the game. One game is not the proof of any concept, but perhaps it's this confidence in a new defensive system that has Tampa seemingly content to use the weakest pair of goalies in the NHL. You certainly can't fault the effectiveness of the system Vegas used to nullify Florida in the playoffs last year.

So now go to the Leafs version, said to be what Tampa used to do, which was obviously hugely successful. I talked in an article this year about defending in very abstract terms – dancing styles and pipe bands and positional discipline vs reactive play. And I said then that when the Leafs do things that lead to positive defensive outcomes, they are active things – puck stealing, zone exits, board battles, etc.

In an animation, this style looks like it should suit the Leafs, not just because they are often a better team, but because they have some forwards who can think this kind of defensive play, but who don't do well at all with go there, don't move, cover that zone and be a man about it – a heavy paraphrase of something I saw today about St. Louis.

This is the Bourne article, by the way where he shows a failure of execution from a forward, but talks about the strengths of the centres who will usually be tasked with this handoff of coverage and change of responsibility:

Structural things to watch with the Maple Leafs this season
Though the Maple Leafs defeated their first-round demons last season, it looks like Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff are implementing different strategies heading into 2023-24. Justin Bourne takes a look at what to watch out for.

Much like a defender joining the offensive play, this positional agnosticism can lead to viewers seeing the initial choice – the defender moves up or the forward comes back to defend – as an individual error and the blame machine starts up. In both cases, you should expect the Leafs to be acting within their tactical brief when they do these things.

So you have your assignment, track the F1 in defensive coverage and submit your report in the GDT!

Go Leafs Go (follow your man)!