While playing the Toronto Maple Leafs always brings out hatred and contempt from most, if not all, Canadiens fans, the games have lost the lustre they once had. Aside from the Leafs knocking off the Canadiens in their last game of the season to keep them from making the playoffs in 2006-2007, there hasn’t really been anything meaningful happen between the two clubs. And maybe that’s why the season series was relatively passive.
Montreal and Toronto split the season series with three victories apiece, with each team only winning once on home ice. Montreal was ahead on points thanks to an overtime loss in the second meeting of the season. The Canadiens managed to open the scoring five times out of the six game set and came away with three victories.
The games were relatively close score wise, with the margin of victory always two goals or less, save the 5-0 beating Montreal handed Toronto in front of Mats Sundin and an empty net goal by Brad Staubitz in the final meeting of the year in a 4-1 victory. The Canadiens scored 17 times while the Leafs put 12 past Montreal’s goaltenders.
One of the Habs killers for the Leafs was none other than former Montreal problem child Mikhail Grabovski, who scored three times, two of which were game winners, and assisted on another three against his former team. Dion Phaneuf also scored three goals and assisted on three others while he was (and still is) dating one of Montreal’s treasures, Elisha Cuthbert. There was more balanced scoring from the Habs, as Erik Cole led the way with three goals and an assist. Travis Moen, Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Max Pacioretty all had a pair of goals each while Tomas Plekanec had a shorthanded goal and four assists.
Goaltending for the Leafs was not very strong. Toronto outshot Montreal 178-149, about an average of five shots more per game, but the Habs proved to make more out of little. James Reimer shut out the Canadiens in their first meeting of the season and stopped nine of 10 in the second meeting before Brian Gionta ruined the rest of the campaign for him. He finished up by letting in five goals on 57 shots in parts of three games. Jonas Gustavsson got the brunt of the starts and turned aside 58 of 66 shots he faced over three games and some relief time for Reimer. Ben Scrivens got the last start of the season and stopped 23 of 26 shots directed at him.
Carey Price started the first five games against the Leafs, losing his first two starts while stopping only 38 of 45 shots he faced in those games. He bounced back nicely in the next three, allowing only four goals on 107 shots, including a shutout victory in the fourth meeting of the season. Peter Budaj got the final start of the season and posted a 30 save 4-1 victory over the Leafs in front of a less than sold out Bell Center.
There was only one fighting major between the two and that came in the fifth game when Brad Staubitz and Mike Brown dropped the gloves. There was a little bit of controversy from the Gionta contact to the head of Reimer in the second game and that was about it for anything questionable. Lots of hockey play-type minor penalties throughout the year but there wasn’t any venom between the two teams. It might’ve been the most peaceful divisional series of the bunch.
Wrapping it up, this was a very calm “battle” between the two storied rivals. Watching players who seemed content to just go through the motions was painstakingly numbing. I hope the Leafs and Habs get it together soon and meet in the playoffs so they can reignite one of the most hated rivalries in all of sports or at least a divisional battle for positioning. Something. Anything. I can’t imagine what some of the old timers who went to war from the 50’s and 60’s for these two teams would think of this dreary matchup.