Tyler Toffoli enjoyed his best NHL season as he scored 28 goals, while Nick Suzuki had 15 goals, including seven during the last 11 games.
Here are five things you should know about Game 1 of the Canadiens-Maple Leafs North Division semifinal series Thursday at Scotiabank Arena (7:30 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM):
The matchup: The Toronto-Montreal rivalry is the oldest in the NHL, but this is the first time these teams have met in the playoffs since 1979, when the Canadiens swept the Leafs en route to a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs go into this series as the definite favourites after finishing first in the Canadian division. Montreal completed the regular season with a 3-6-1 record against the Leafs. Toronto had a 7-1-2 record in its last 10 games, while Montreal lost its last five games (0-3-2) with two of those losses coming against the Leafs.
The puck stops here — or not: Carey Price was angry and demolished his stick in practice Wednesday, which is usually a good sign that he’s dialed in. Normally, the Canadiens could expect to have the edge in goal with Price, but that’s not necessarily the case. Price hasn’t played in an NHL game since April 19 and it remains to be seen whether he is well rested or rusty. He hasn’t played well against the Toronto this season, with a 1-2-1 record, a 3.48 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage. Jack Campbell has taken advantage of an injury to Frederik Andersen and has owned Montreal, with a 4-1-1 record, a 2.16 GAA and a .918 SP.
Where’s the offence? Early in the season, the Canadiens led the NHL in offence, but they finished the season in 17th place with an average of 2.82 goals a game. That’s not good enough because they gave up 2.95 goals a game. Tyler Toffoli enjoyed his best season in the NHL as he scored 28 goals in 52 games, good for seventh in the NHL scoring race. Nick Suzuki scored 15 goals and finished on a high note with seven goals and seven assists during the last 11 games of the regular season. Josh Anderson had 17 goals, but he struggled down the stretch. He failed to pick up a point in his last 11 starts and will start the playoffs on the fourth line.
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The Matthews factor: The Canadiens have to stop — or at least limit — Auston Matthews who won the Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal-scorer with 41. Matthews had seven of those goals and added seven assists in his 10 games against the Canadiens. His career totals against Montreal are 19 goals and 12 assists in 24 games and he has scored on 20 per cent of his shots on goal. One of the keys to limiting Matthews is to put the clamps on Mitch Marner, who is one of the NHL leaders in assists with 47 to go along with his 20 goals.
Nothing special going on: You would think that with all the firepower on the Leafs’ roster, the team would be doing better on the power play, but that isn’t the case. The Leafs rank 16th in the NHL with a success rate of 20 per cent. That’s only a tad better than the Canadiens, who rank 17th at 19.2 per cent. Matthews is tied for fifth in power-play goals with 10, but the top Leaf in power-play points is Marner, who is 54th with 14. Both teams struggle with the penalty-kill and they are tied for 23rd with a success rate of 78.5 per cent.