It’s been 42 years since the last playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, but after all that time apart, those two teams have given us a series that was worth the wait. So with Game Seven on Monday night, will the Maple Leafs get the monkey of a first-round series loss off their backs, or will Montreal stave off elimination yet again and advance to the second round?
Toronto is the heavy betting favorite at -200, while the underdog Canadiens are +165 on the road. Puck drop is at 7:00 P.M. Eastern.
Montreal Canadiens Preview
Montreal needed overtime wins in Games Five and Six to keep its playoff hopes alive, and they may need another extra session Monday night to advance. Amazingly, the Canadiens were terrible in overtime in the regular season, going 4-11 in overtime/shootout games. However, they’ve won two overtime games in this series, and all three wins came by one goal.
Carey Price had a .934 save percentage over Games Five and Six and has a .926 save percentage in the series. Price has a 2-0-1 record in Game Sevens in his career, with all three instances against the Boston Bruins.
The Canadiens must get the offense rolling early and often to keep up with Toronto’s stars. Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, and Tomas Tatar have combined for no goals and one assist in the series (Tatar did not play in Game Six). Those three must make a meaningful offensive contribution for Montreal to advance.
Tatar is day-to-day and may not play in Game Seven. Artturi Lehkonen (undisclosed) may be out as well, and defenseman Jon Merrill (undisclosed) has already been ruled out.
Fatigue among Montreal’s defense may be a factor too. Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry, and Shea Weber all played more than 34 minutes in Game Six. Expect all three to play big minutes in Game Seven as well.
Toronto Maple Leafs Preview
Similar to Montreal, Toronto has seen its stars struggle to find the back of the net. Auston Matthews (41 regular-season goals) and Mitch Marner (20 regular-season goals) have combined for one playoff goal.
Toronto will also be without captain John Tavares in Game Seven. Tavares has not played since Game One after suffering an injury in an awkward collision that left him with a concussion. Tavares has resumed skating, but he is still some time away from a return.
Jack Campbell has been excellent in the playoffs so far and is tied for third among all playoff goaltenders in save percentage at .937. He has played far better than expected, as Frederik Andersen was expected to carry the load for most of the season to begin the campaign. This season marks the first time Campbell has played in the playoffs in his six-year career.
The Maple Leafs will also be without workhorse defenseman Jake Muzzin in Game Seven after suffering a lower-body injury in Game Six. Head Coach Sheldon Keefe says Muzzin will be out a minimum of three weeks, opening the door for Montreal to take advantage of a thinner Maple Leafs defense.
The Pick is In
Both storied franchises have a flair for the dramatic, and Game Seven Monday night should be no different. It may be worth it to put a bet on the Canadiens +1.5 goal puck line in case the game goes to overtime yet again.
However, despite the injuries, I think Toronto exorcises the demons and advances to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout.