The first-round NHL playoff schedule has been announced, and it includes a back-to-back set at the Bell Centre for the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens series.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 13, 2021
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens -- Round 1 Playoff TV ScheduleToronto loses the best-of-seven series 4-3
|Date||Home||Away||Venue||Time (EST)||TV Network/Result|
|Game 1||May 20||Toronto||Montreal||Scotiabank Arena||7:30 p.m.||2-1 Loss|
|Game 2||May 22||Toronto||Montreal||Scotiabank Arena||7:00 p.m.||5-1 Win|
|Game 3||May 24||Montreal||Toronto||Bell Centre||7:00 p.m.||2-1 Win|
|Game 4||May 25||Montreal||Toronto||Bell Centre||7:30 p.m||4-0 Win|
|Game 5*||May 27||Toronto||Montreal||Scotiabank Arena||7:00 p.m.||4-3 Loss (OT)|
|Game 6*||May 29||Montreal||Toronto||Bell Centre||7:30 p.m.||3-2 Loss (OT)|
|Game 7*||May 31||Toronto||Montreal||Scotiabank Arena||7:00 p.m.||3-1 Loss|
In the context of last summer’s crammed-in bubble playoffs, where players were being forced to live a hotel life inside a confined zone and an extra play-in series was needed to determine the final 16 teams, you could understand/rationalize a few back-to-backs as an imperfect but necessary solution in a difficult situation. But a back-to-back simply shouldn’t happen in the playoffs this Spring, especially when one team is on the road for both games and the other is at home sleeping in their own beds in between games.
The optics are even worse when the NHL is prioritizing TV sponsor obligations for meaningless Flames-Canucks regular-season games played in front of no fans over setting a reasonable playoff schedule for its two biggest markets (and for the first Leafs vs. Habs series since 1979, no less). It’s not a perfect situation, but if the games must be played, it would’ve been preferable if the playoff matchups in Canada didn’t need to wait until the end of the Flames and Canucks regular season, just as all of the American series are proceeding this weekend.
For the Leafs, the presence of the back-to-back only underscores the importance of getting Frederik Andersen into a game last night in Ottawa. Most teams would probably roll their best starter through both starts in a playoff situation, but it could change based on a whole host of factors depending on how the series plays out through three games. Pulling the necessary salary-cap strings — at the expense of shifting Rasmus Sandin to the taxi squad for the final few games, and keeping Riley Nash and Zach Hyman on LTIR — in order to get Andersen closer to game ready was the right call.
In any event, we now have the details of the round-one playoff calendar, and we’ll try not to let the lunacy of the scheduling detract from the sheer excitement the fan base should be feeling about this team’s promise entering the playoffs as well as the first Leafs vs. Habs postseason battle in 42 years.
— SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (@SiriusXMNHL) May 13, 2021
The series will start Thursday and Saturday in Toronto, flip to Montreal for a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back, and then go every other day if the series requires it. Puck drop times are TBD on Games 3-7 at the moment.