It’s a milestone game in this shortened season but it’s another opportunity for Mitch Marner to go off as the Leafs are going Next Gen tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Leafs went out west and went 4/4 defeating the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames in each game. Jack Campbell is getting the most attention as he’s currently rocking a nine-game winning streak, but Michael Hutchinson deserves some love as well. Especially after some big saves against the Flames.
Big stop by Hutchinson early pic.twitter.com/nFyIRfh4k2— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 5, 2021
That said, all eyes should be on Campbell as he sets out to make Leafs history.
🍜 SOUPY CHASING HISTORY 🔥— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 7, 2021
Campbell (9-0-0) is in the home net at Leafs morning skate & is the projected starter for tonight's game against the Canadiens
Jack can set a new franchise record win streak ... currently tied with Potvin, Plante & Roach @TSN_Edge
Game 40: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2021
Time: 7:30 PM
Place: Scotiabank Arena
Channel: SN, NBCSN, RDS
Toronto Maple Leafs
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (unless the trade deadline gets in the way).
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Galchenyuk - John Tavares - William Nylander
Joe Thornton - Alex Kerfoot - Jason Spezza
Wayne Simmonds - Pierre Engvall - Ilya Mikheyev
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Zach Bogosian
The Next Gen Games usually do something for the top line as their high-octane switch gets flipped early. The last one on March 29th saw both Matthews and Marner score to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead in the first.
MITCH MARNER 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 29, 2021
LET'S GO! THIS IS YOUR NIGHT! pic.twitter.com/toaWropEz1
AUSTON MATTHEWS 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 29, 2021
THE SHOT IS BACK! pic.twitter.com/17MrgHqrXZ
That was the first game we saw Matthews’ shot appear to return to form and he’s been potting in goals ever since with four in four games including the team’s first power play goal since March 9th. Un-ironically, another Matthews tally.
When you score your first power play goal in eons pic.twitter.com/PSgBGL1QXw— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 6, 2021
Another thing to mention is the continuous production of the older vets and the return of Tavares’ active scoring. It feels as if Jason Spezza has been scoring all season but he notted his ninth of the year against the Flames inching his way into the top 100 NHL scorers of all time. After earning a primary assist in his return from injury, Wayne Simmonds finally got his first goal since February 6th. Hopefully that’s the much needed lift that energizes him for the rest of the season.
JT has gotten some gripe this season for his lack of offence and commitment to a more quiet defensive game but he’s been showing up on the scoreboard more lately. After going pointless for three nights in-a-row, Tavares put up back-to-back two-point games with goals in each. The Noah Hanifin own goal was hilarious but his latest in Calgary was what we love to see.
JOHN TAVARES 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 6, 2021
JOHNNY TORONTO! pic.twitter.com/qKzjSbRBS1
Selfishly, I need to bring up Alex Galchenyuk. The Leafs have had countless examples of former players scoring against them. Gally (HA!) hasn’t played for the Montreal Canadiens in three years and is continuing to prove that the time the Leafs put into him is paying off. That doesn’t change the fact that it would be so sweet to see him score tonight.
Speaking of the Habs...
A lot has happened to the Habs since the last time they faced the Leafs. Not only were they considered the juggernaut of the North Division then, but Claude Julien was still head coach. Fast forward to the present and the team has a new coach in Dominique Ducharme, a new centre in Staal and are not as juggernaut-ish as they were in February.
Health hasn’t been in Montreal’s favour either as the team lost two key players in the same game. Brendan Gallagher was hit by a Romanov shot fracturing his thumb which will keep him out for weeks. Gallagher can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to injuries via friendly fire, just ask Shea Weber.
The Price news is the most recent as it was announced he would be staying in Montreal for re-evaluations instead of joining the team in Toronto. Price got tangled up with Josh Archibald of the Edmonton Oilers and an awkward stretch back looks to be the culprit.
To make matters worse, Price finished the game, and by no means was it an easy one.
Joel Armia is also still on the COVID protocol list which has forced coach Ducharme to pull out the line blender.
Corey Perry - Nick Suzuki - Josh Anderson
Jonathan Drouin - Eric Staal - Tyler Toffoli
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Paul Byron - Jake Evans - Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Edmundson - Shea Weber
Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov - Victor Mete
Almost 2 years to the day, Apr 6/19(Lindgren) the Habs last had a goalie other than Price start vs TOR.— Kevin Gibson (@GibShow) April 7, 2021
Kotkaniemi on the wing and Perry on the top-line stand out the most. Perry hasn’t been a top-line player in years though he is finding his grove in Montreal with 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 28 games.
And then there’s the KK. The 2018 third overall pick has played centre his entire NHL career. However, he was the team’s “fourth line” centre against the Oilers in Staal’s debut. He does have experience playing on the right wing but it will be interesting to see how the matchups go.
There’s one thing I have to address. The Leafs have had many killers over the years. Ovechkin, Malkin, and most recently, Andrew Mangiapane has been annoying to play against (back-to-back games with goals). But there’s been one player who has always performed well against the Leafs, regardless of what team they were on: Eric Staal.
The numbers do not lie. It’s beyond the fact that he’s been in the league since 2003. In 49 career games against the Leafs, Staal has 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points. Additionally, Staal has already had a nice introduction on the Habs, scoring the overtime winner on Monday, and he’ll likely have some fire behind him having to take on Matthews or Tavares.
Is this something for the team to be scared of? No.
Is this something I will be scared of? Most definitely...
The Leafs have points in nine straight games and Jack Campbell has an opportunity to make history with ten consecutive wins. Sheldon Keefe talked about the importance of developing playoff habits in the regular season and finishing the year strong. A fifth win in a row and a fourth win against a historical rival sounds like a good way to keep that going.
Who is 100% scoring tonight?