CANADIENS (32-21-8) at MAPLE LEAFS (28-20-12)
7:00 pm (HNIC)
The Montreal Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tonight for another installment of Hockey Night in Canada. This one is a little more special for me because it will be my first live viewing of Canadas favourite hockey night.
There are a couple of story lines tonight. First is the continued absence of Mitch Marner from the Maple Leafs lineup. Marner hasn’t played since he sustained a shoulder injury in a game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 15th, this will mark his 5th game lost since that day.
While losing Marner is a major blow to the Leafs their offense hasn’t slowed down too much. This is, in part, thanks to Josh Leivo. With 8pts in his past 6 games a permanent spot on the roster is now his to lose. He has used his size and skill well to create offense and, more importantly, hasn’t been a liability on defensive side of the ice.
The Leafs could also be without Tyler Bozak tonight as he is being described as a game time decision. There is a theory that he has the flu, lets hope he’s the only one feeling a little under the weather right now.
The biggest storyline for me, through all of this, comes from head coach Mike Babcock. He had this to say when asked about the young guys competing for a playoff spot:
“ I think most of them have been in lots of playoff races, they were just at a different level. They’re used to winning. The only guys who aren’t used to winning are the guys who have been here for a while. We always talk about the kids, but that’s not the group we have to worry about. We have to worry about the group that’s been here for a while. They have to get used to winning every night.”
To me that’s a pretty massive challenge to the veterans on this team. Their response tonight will be a very telling sign of their character. It’s also interesting that Tyler Bozak could miss the Leafs first game since this challenge. If it is a bug then maybe you fight through it, if for nothing else than to show the coach and management you’re willing to try.
On the other side of the coin we have the Canadiens. They were granted an optional skate this morning and all but 6 players decided to attend. To me that’s a pretty big indication that they’re here to play.
The Habs have been sliding lately so will be hungry after having won just 2 of their past 10. It’s expected that Carey Price will get the start, which means the Leafs will be in for a challenge if they want to score more than a couple of goals.
I’ll keep this one short folks, my plane landed just a couple of hours ago and I have a vacation to get to.
In short, lets hope the kids continue to take the lead on the ice, the veterans answer the call of the coach, and Andersen plays like he did against the Rangers. If those three things can come together tonight we’ll be sure to win.
GO LEAFS GO!!!
Enjoy the game!! I know I will.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov — Kadri — Leivo
van Riemsdyk — Smith — Brown
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
Martin — Gauthier — Soshnikov
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Pacioretty — Danault — Radulov
Lehkonen — Galchenyuk — Gallagher
Byron — Plekanec — Shaw
Andrighetto — Desharnais — Mitchell
Emelin — Weber
Markov — Petry
Beaulieu — Nesterov