Happy Hockey Day in Canada to all. As usually on this fine Saturday the Montreal Canadiens meet another Canadian opposition in a very important mid-season matchup. This year’s edition sees Montreal take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The game, which kicks off at 7, could be a huge win for the Habs if they can achieve it. However, as we have seen this season the Canadiens usually don’t show up when the games get important. It could be the same this time around. Going into this game you have to give the advantage to the Leafs. The Habs have been a disappointing 5-4-1 in their past 10 while the Leafs have been far better going 6-3-1. 3 spots and 9 points separate the Leafs (8th in the East) and the Canadiens (12th in the East). With a win today the Habs could subtract 2 from that gap and put themselves in the 11th place in the NHL.
The odds are further stacked against the Canadiens when you consider that the Leafs have actually been consistent at home. Montreal has an away record of 11-13-2 while the Leafs have a far more favourable record of 16-8-4 at the ACC. The Leafs also have the advantage in results this season. They beat the Habs 2-0 at the start of the season to kick off the dismal season that it has been for the Canadiens. They also beat the Habs in that 5-4 OT win which featured an excellent overtime goal from former Canadien Mikhail Grabovski. But the most recent Habs Leafs game did see the Canadiens get a very important win. Well, a very important win if they would have built off it.
So far every Hockey Day in Canada Canadiens game I have ever seen always either results in a huge win for the Canadiens or an incredibly disappointing loss. While I would hope it is the earlier of the two I have a feeling it is going to be the latter. The Canadiens have not been able to hold momentum so far this season and have fallen apart in anything that even resembles an important game. I think you can clearly include this game in the important game category.
Keys to the Game
1. Quiet things down a little
If the Canadiens can get the crowd out of this one early it will be huge in getting them some momentum. The crowd at the ACC can be decent at times when the Leafs are winning but when they are losing the crowd can disappear.
2. Stay out of the box and convert when the Leafs are in it
Staying out the box will be crucial for the Canadiens tonight as the Leafs are 7th in the NHL in PP% with a 19.9% conversion rate. Basically, the score every 5 powerplays. On the other hand the leafs are 29th in the NHL in PK% at 76. 7%.
3. Get more than one line rolling
One of the problems for the Canadiens this season is they have not been able to get more than one line playing for much of the season. If they can get a few lines rolling tonight their chances of beating the Leafs will be increased.