The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a 3 game road trip tonight as they visit the long time rival Montreal Canadiens tonight for an Original Six Battle. This is the third time these two clubs have met this season, with Montreal taking the first two games by scores of 4-3 in overtime, and 5-4 in a shootout. The Habs will celebrate their 100th anniversary on Friday against another original six club in the Boston Bruins, but will first have to deal with the always threatening but rarely scoring Leafs.
The Leafs failed to secure a 3 game win streak last night as they could not find a single way to beat Ryan Miller. While the Leafs were all over the Sabres, it seemed they were nervous on chances with Matt Stajan passing the puck into Phil Kessel's feet at the side of the net on a 2 on 0, Alexei Ponikarovsky keeping the puck on a 2 on 1 and throwing it way over the net instead of passing or shooting low for a rebound, Mikhail Grabovski and Niklas Hagman not able to find a hole to bury the biscuit from the slot, and even Phil Kessel who took a few shots that looked more like they should have come off the stick of Jason Blake instead. But, needless to say, Ryan Miller did steal the show, and that's something the Leafs will be doing all they can to prevent from happening for either Habs goaltender tonight.
"Their goalie over there has stolen two games against us," forward Matt Stajan said, referencing an earlier OT loss to Buffalo. "I don't know what it is. Maybe his Team U.S. coach and GM are on our side, he wants to prove something? I don't know what it is, but he's one of the best and you've got to give him credit."
Jonas Gustavsson will get his 2nd straight start tonight, and both Jeff Finger and Carl Gunnarsson are "questionable" for tonight's game. Should Gunnarsson net be able to suit up, it's believed Garnet Exelby will take his place in the lineup. The defensive duos prior to Gunnarsson's unfortunate injury last night were quite strong for the Leafs. Kaberle had paired up with Mike Komisarek, who returned from injury; Beauchemin skated alongside Gunnarsson and looked like they had some chemistry on the break outs; Luke Schenn looked like he was playing one of his best games of the season with Ian White. White and Schenn, by far, looked like the better fair for the Leafs last night. Tomas Kaberle seemed to be lost on several occasions by misplaying the puck, throwing the puck into a pack of teammates who were in the process of making a line change, and even screening Gustavsson on a shot before stepping out of the way and watching it cross the goal line instead of blocking it.
Tonight, the Leafs hope to rebound from their goal-less performance and secure a win on the road, where they seem to play better. According to mapleleafs.com, the Montreal Canadiens are one of 9 teams who remain unbeaten when leading after 2 periods.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of last night's game was the post-game discussion with Ron Wilson. A reporter asked him if Phil Kessel had any injuries because a few journalists had noticed he was walking around with the team doctor. Ron Wilson said "no. Just because he's walking around with the doctor you assume he's injured? If I was walking around with a doctor, what type of injury would I have?" Without missing a beat, the reporter replied "lower-body injury."
In other brief Leafs news, Maple Leafs Gardens will be receiving $20M from the Federal Government of a $60M plan to give the storied building a makeover to become a new athletic facility, rink, and grocery store. Ryerson University will also contribute $20M through increased agreed upon student fees, and will work to fundraise the remaining $20M. The sports centre will cover 150,000 square feet and, in addition to the rink, will host a four-lane, 200-metre running track, basketball and volleyball courts with telescoping bleachers, a fitness centre, a gym and academic space. The only unfortunate part is knowing it will be renamed The Ryerson Sports and Recreation Centre.
In other somewhat related Leafs news, the rumors of Marc Savard becoming a Maple Leaf in the summer is officially dead. The 32 year old playmaking center has reportedly signed a 7 year contract extension with the Boston Bruins worth $4.2M per season.
Powerplay: TOR 8th (22.0%), MTL 23rd (17.5%)
Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (73.5%), MTL 18th (79.3%)
Faceoff % – TOR 14th (49.7%), MTL 15th (49.7%)
Average Shots For: TOR 1st (34.8), MTL 25th (28.2)
Average Shots Against: TOR 19th (30.5), MTL 22nd (30.8)
Average Goals For: TOR 20th (2.64), MTL 27th (2.38)
Average Goals Against: TOR 30th (3.60), MTL 20th (2.85)
5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 28th (0.78), MTL 23rd (0.84)
Micheal A. Aldred