NHL Game of the Week: Maple Leafs (4) vs. Canadiens (2)

Toronto lineup of mostly AHLers downs Montreal as one of hockey's biggest rivalries returns

The NHL regular season hasn’t even started yet, but one of the oldest and most bitter rivalries in hockey reared its head a couple times in Quebec City during the preseason.

The Toronto Maple Leafs swept their preseason series against the Montreal Canadiens, but the second matchup appears to be the most intriguing by far.

After the Maple Leafs downed the Canadiens 5-1 in their first meeting on Monday at Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto iced a team consisting mostly of players who won’t likely be NHL regulars this season, while Montreal sent out most of its veterans and offseason additions like Jonathan Drouin.

The result wasn’t what you would expect. The Maple Leafs doubled up on their longtime rivals by the score of 4-2.

Let’s not forget, preseason doesn’t amount to anything in the standings – save for a few bragging rights here and there. But it can help coaches decide who might crack an NHL lineup or who might need more time in the farm system, so for some, it makes all the difference.

The game

The second preseason contest between Toronto and Montreal looks to have started as one might have predicted. The Canadiens entered the first intermission with a 2-0 lead off goals from Drouin and Andrew Shaw.

But the Maple Leafs had other plans. Their three goals in the second period helped put them over the top.

Toronto added a goal in the third to seal the Canadiens’ fate and drop them to 0-6 at this point in the preseason.

The Canadiens ended up beating the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Friday and blasting the Ottawa Senators 9-2 on Saturday.

What looks even worse for Montreal is that the Maple Leafs’ late offensive onslaught came from fringe players and guys that aren’t widely known, such as Andreas Johnsson and Andreas Borgman.

It was Connor Carrick who got the Maple Leafs on the board in period two, followed by Martin Marincin with the equalizer and Borgman with the game winner.

Johnsson put the final nail in the coffin early in the third.

Maple Leafs’ backup Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves for the win, while Canadiens star netminder Carey Price blocked 24 shots in the losing effort.

Things we learned

Anything is possible, especially in the preseason. Maple Leafs’ fans hoping the team snaps its regular-season losing streak against the Canadiens will have to wait longer, however. Toronto has its first shot at that on Oct. 14 at the Bell Centre.

If McElhinney’s play Wednesday night in Quebec City is any sign, it looks like he will continue to be a reliable backup for the Maple Leafs. That’s important, especially with Frederik Andersen being expected to carry much of the load between the pipes for the blue and white.

Many fans may laugh at Montreal losing to the Toronto Marlies, but hey, it’s only preseason. Several minor league players fighting for a possible NHL roster spot will inevitably fight harder to make an impression than a bunch of veterans who likely know they’re in the opening night lineup.

That a squad of mostly AHL players gave a veteran team this good of a game also reflects the parity in the NHL these days. Or the fact the Canadiens probably weren’t as apt to push the Maple Leafs overly hard in a contest that was all but meaningless.

Stay tuned

The NHL regular season opens Wednesday, Oct. 4, with the Maple Leafs facing the Winnipeg Jets.

The Calgary Flames will also take on the Edmonton Oilers while other matchups include the St. Louis Blues versus the two-time defending champ Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers against the San Jose Sharks.

Eight games are slated for Thursday, with three contests on tap Friday night and a jam-packed 15-game lineup for Saturday.

Another interesting highlight of the upcoming schedule includes the Vegas Golden Knights’ first-ever regular-season tilt Friday against the Dallas Stars.

The Golden Knights’ season-opening road trip continues Saturday when Vegas has a date with the Arizona Coyotes.

Arizona and Vegas will rematch in the inaugural home game for the expansion Golden Knights on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at T-Mobile Arena.

Did any other games stand out to you during the past week? Are there any others we should look forward to over the next week? Have your say in the comments section below!

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Nathan DeLong


Journalist and graduate based in New Brunswick, Canada. Fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL in general. Follow me on Twitter @DeLongNathan95