The Columbus Blue Jackets’ shootout victory over the New York Rangers last night means there is zero intrigue on offer tonight in the final game of the regular season for the playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs and the eliminated Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. EST, CBC).
In fact, the Leafs are going to rest two-thirds of their defense core tonight; Travis Dermott, Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, and Jake Muzzin will all sit out. Frederik Andersen will start in the Leafs‘ net while Charlie Lindgren goes for the Canadiens.
More importantly, thank you to Bob Cole, who calls his final game tonight:
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the lineup for tonight’s game:
I think it’s an opportunity to play the guys. We have some guys that are banged up and are not going to play. For the guys are going to play, it’s the last opportunity to get your game in order the best you can. We are going to identify three things we really want to focus on like we have been trying to do. We just want to get our game in order the best we can and we want everyone to come out healthy.
Babcock on what the focus is for tonight and of late as far as improving ahead of the playoffs:
What we’re giving up. What we try to do is expected goals for and expected goals against, basically, all the time by charting chances and knowing where we are at. We’ve really tried to make our biggest focus giving up as little as we possibly can. We think it is the best way to have success. The other thing is you want your players feeling good. We’ve got some guys who haven’t scored in a bit and it’d be good if they could shoot one in the net and get feeling a little better. Those will be two priorities for us.
Babcock on whether the team is going to embrace the underdog role versus Boston:
I checked the standings today and it looked like we are a pretty good team. You can say what you want. I think the biggest thing for me is that we know who we are playing. We know where. We know where the meal is the night before. We’re set up and ready to go.
Babcock on the state of the blue line:
When we get our group back, we’ve got a pretty good group. We haven’t had our group now for five or six weeks, but in saying that, we are hopeful that they will be all on board and ready to go for Game 1.
Babcock on whether he feels the team’s center depth is better this year and can give the team an advantage in the series:
I think it has really helped us. In saying that, this summer, we lost good players. You’ve got to make decisions. JVR was a real good player for us. Bozak was a real good player. Komarov was a good player. Polak played real well for us. Every year, you are going to lose players. That is the way it is. You make decisions and you’ve got to decide where you are going to spend your money.
I really like what John Tavares has brought to our hockey club. I think he has made us a better team with a better opportunity at this time of year than we were in the past. He had a good year for us and has provided a ton of leadership.
I think we are counting on a lot of young players. Johnsson has taken a real bigger step. Kapanen has taken a bigger step. We need those guys to continue to grow as players. I think Marner and Matthews have done an exceptional job that way of growing their game.
We like our opportunity and the development of our team way better than we did at this time last year.
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen – Max Domi – Andrew Shaw
Jonathan Drouin – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Joel Armia
Nicolas Deslauriers – Ryan Poehling – Jordan Weal
Victor Mete – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn – Christian Folin
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Patrick Marleau – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#11 Andreas Johnsson – #29 William Nylander – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #42 Trevor Moore
#51 Jake Gardiner – #44 Morgan Rielly
#48 Calle Rosen – #3 Justin Holl
#52 Martin Marincin – #92 Igor Ozhiganov
#31 Frederik Andersen
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched/Resting: Nic Petan, Jake Muzzin, Nazem Kadri, Ron Hainsey, Travis Dermott, Nikita Zaitsev