Preview – Montreal (39-33-9) vs. Toronto (29-38-14) – April 9th 2010
After 81 games of analysis, previews and reviews, it is easy to get the sense that us writers use superlatives in an often exaggerated manner. However, when Montreal hosts Toronto on Saturday night, there is no doubt that it will be the biggest game of the season for the Habs. With the Rangers winning on Friday evening, the Canadiens have not yet clinched a playoff spot and need an ever elusive point to do so. Otherwise, they will have to hope for a Philadelphia win on Sunday afternoon. Furthermore, if Boston obtains a point in their next two games and Montreal loses, even an overtime loss by the Flyers would be sufficient to eliminate the Habs.
Unfortunately for Montreal, they have put themselves in a situation where their arch-rivals have an opportunity to deliver an almost fatal blow. While we could contemplate the fact that the Leafs rank last on both special teams, that they have allowed the second most goals in the league or that they are the second worst team in the league, one would be wise to quickly discard these statistics as they are largely inconsequential. A game versus the Leafs seldom falls within the realm of statistical probabilities and the Leafs will undoubtedly be hoping to inflict some serious damage. As Matt Gauthier succinctly put it a few days ago, “the Leafs will try to bruise the Habs and play like it’s their championship game”.
This game feels eerily reminiscent of the final regular season game in 2007, which was versus these same Maple Leafs. As you surely remember, the Canadiens lost 6-5 and were thus eliminated from the playoffs. At the time, there was much debate about who would be handed the net, Cristobal Huet, who had just recovered from an injury, or Jaroslav Halak, who had valiantly filled in during his absence. However, it is safe to say that this time there will be no such discussion. Jaroslav Halak, who was recently awarded the Molson Cup, will get the start. In spite of the loss on Thursday, he still owns the third best save percentage in the league, at .926, and has an impressive 26-14-3 record. Evidently, the problem currently does not lie between the pipes for the Canadiens. Rather, it is the team’s top scorers who are growing cold at the worst possible time. While Tomas Plekanec remains the squad’s scoring leader with 70 points, he has but one point in his past three contests. Benoit Pouliot has not scored in his previous six contests, while Mike Cammalleri has not scored since his return. In fact, Cammalleri, the author of 26 goals and 50 points this season, has not scored in his past 11 games.
As for the Leafs, one could reasonably expect Jean-Sebastien Giguere to get the start, he who was not afforded that luxury in the last meeting between these two squads. The Montreal native has slightly improved his numbers with Toronto and now boasts a 9-15-7 record with a .906 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average. On the injury front, Mike Van Ryn and Mike Komisarek are out for Toronto while Paul Mara and Glen Metropolit are on the sidelines for Montreal.
Puck drops at 7:00 pm and the game will air on RDS and CBC. Defibrillator is optional, but highly recommended.