It’s Mats Sundin night at the Air Canada Centre tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the Montreal Canadiens to town.
There is plenty on the line as these two teams renew their hate/hate rivalry on Saturday night. Once the #13 jersey of Sundin is raised and the puck drops the Leafs will need to use the momentum of an upbeat crowd to slow down the surging Habs. Toronto has dropped their past two games, both one goal deficits, while Montreal will be going for their fourth straight win.
The Buds are clinging to the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals. Les Habitants are sitting near the bottom of the basement and would love another two point piece of the twelve point pie between these archrivals. Toronto leads the season series 2-1.
James Reimer will get the call between the pipes for the Leafs while the Habs will counter with Carey Price. Price has been a key cog in the three game streak, picking up all three victories while allowing just four goals. Most nights Carey needs to stand on his head to have his team pull out a victory. There should be plenty on rubber fired his way tonight making him a sneaky play.
The Leafs are getting all their offence from the top two lines, Phil Kessel(60) and Joffrey Lupul(58) lead the way in the scoring department, their success together this season has them sitting fourth and fifth respectively in league scoring. Tyler Bozak centers the two and has found himself on the score sheet in recent outings. All three have four game points streaks intact, which makes them all very viable options heading into tonight’s contest.
Mikhail Grabovski must like it Toronto playing in the center of the Hockey Universe; since his name has come up in trade talks he’s been the Leafs best forward. Before the Leafs two game hiccup where he went pointless, Grabo had pilled up twelve points in the six previous games. His line mates seem to struggle on consistency but….I’d roll him with confidence, especially against his former team.
Montreal has found a hard time creating offense this season; they traded away their best player when they shipped Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames for Rene Bourque. They have just four players who have surpassed the 25 point mark this season. With that being said if you're looking for a producer look no further than Max Pacioretty. The former first round pick leads the team in goals with 22 and points with 41. Plus he is coming off a hat trick in his last contest, a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday.
If you like to roll the dice, and are one of those ‘I like to be different kind’ of people, here are a couple names that might intrigue you.
Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner has been to talk of town the past few weeks, bumped around from the big boys club to the Marlies at the beginning of the season, he has really come on strong and could be Toronto’s best defenseman. He has tremendous skating ability, great vision and has found the confidence to utilizing these skills, resulting in plenty of scoring chances for him and his mates. His ice time has increased and so has his point production, he has compiled 7 points in his last 10 games. Gardiner also is not afraid to get between the net and the puck, picking up multiple block games in three of the last four outings. Overall this kid can be a solid play if you’re willing to gamble.
Mighty Mouse David Desharnais has been a pleasant surprise this season for Montreal. He leads the team in assists with 27 while picking up 37 points which is good for fourth on the team. The 5 foot 7 center has gained the trust of the coaching staff and has not disappointed. He could be good for some points and face off wins, again if you like to roll the dice.
There would be nothing sweeter to the Canadiens and the city of Montreal than to march into Toronto, scoop up another two points and spoil ‘Mats Sundin night’, all while evening the season series and exploding Leafs Nation with a three game slide.
It never really seems to matter what’s at stake or where they sit in the standings, when these two teams clash, just like an NFL divisional game, you just never know.
Captain- Phil Kessel
C - Max Pacioretty