Saturday, March 17, 2018
Saturday featured a not-so-green lit St. Patrick’s day affair between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, who were meeting for just the third time this season.
It would mark the second last matchup between the Original Six rivals, until meeting again on April 7th in either team’s very last game of the regular season. Toronto held an upper hand in the season-series up to this point, having won both of the previous decisions—including a 6-0 blowout victory last time around in November.
With the Canadiens in town, Toronto’s franchise-record 11-game home winning streak was on the line.
Perhaps the most tantalizing story of the evening, however, was Tomas Plekanec’s first game against his former team—featuring a taste of the historic rivalry from a blue and white perspective.
Montreal drafted the now 35-year-old centre in the 3rd round, 71st overall of the 2003 NHL draft and spent his entire career with the Habs up until this point. Since being acquired by Toronto at the trade deadline, Plekanec has yet to produce a point and is struggling to find his place in the lineup.
Plekanec appeared emotional when asked about going up against the only NHL team he had ever played for prior to the deadline,”
“Obviously it’s not easy, from 15 years being in the one organization like that and in just over a day, jump to the other team and play with the other guys on it. It’s not easy.”
Furthermore, the injury bug has officially struck in Toronto. A long list of names are notably suffering through illnesses or injury and have left the Maple Leafs to rely on contributions and increased roles from depth players.
Among those referenced, no player is more important than the league’s overlooked Vezina Trophy candidate and arguably Toronto’s most valuable player, Frederik Andersen. The Danish Wall remains day-to-day and there is currently no timetable for his return at this time. Curtis McElhinney occupied the crease in his place.
Not to mention, Auston Matthews, who continues to recover from a suspected shoulder injury.
Leo Komarov did not dress, either, after going down with a lower-body injury on Thursday night due to a collision with teammate, William Nylander. Andreas Johnsson drew into the lineup as a result, meaning other players would have to help pick up Komarov’s 2:34 of penalty killing time on average per game.
On the other hand, the Canadiens would also be without their starting goaltender and best player. Carey Price has yet to return from a concussion that he sustained on February 20th versus Philadelphia and there is no need for him to be rushed back. As a result, Charlie Lindgren received the nod in between the pipes for Montreal.
As the action got underway, it took some time for the ice to be broken—but Toronto would end the opening frame with a 1-0 lead.
William Nylander recorded his 15th goal of the season and ended a 13-game goalless drought in the process. The power play marker would see a slick snipe off the stick of Nylander, who handily beat Lindgren over the shoulder for the game’s opening goal.
The second period saw Toronto’s offensive prowess carry over, seeing as the Maple Leafs added two more goals before the end of the second period.
Kasperi Kapanen opened the scoring just over three minutes into the frame, doubling Toronto’s lead in the process. His 6th goal of the season came off of a breakaway feed from Travis Dermott, to which Kapanen made no mistake and beat Lindgren with a cheeky wrist-shot upstairs to make it a 2-0 game.
Later in the frame, it would be Nazem Kadri chipping in to add some insurance to the lead. Kadri’s 28th tally would come on the power play and secure a 3-0 lead for the home side, coming just 0:29 seconds before the second intermission.
Montreal struggled to keep up as the game continued, meaning Toronto had an opportunity to close out the game with a perfect defensive record. Curtis McElhinney managed to turn away all 33-shots that he faced before the end of the game.
In case you could not already tell, Toronto would walk away with a decisive victory when it was all said and done
Andreas Johansson managed to secure his 1st career NHL goal in the third period off of a one-time feed from Zach Hyman. While driving to the net, Johnsson received a pass from Hyman and beat Lindgren with a quick shot to make it a 4-0 score. You could tell by his expression that he was a little bit excited to get the first one off his back.
The final score would stand 4-0 and mark Toronto’s fourth-straight win, as well as their twelfth-consecutive win on home-ice.
On a side note, James van Riemsdyk entered Saturday with 5 goals in his last two games—but could not solve Charlie Lindgren tonight.
Toronto will have several days off before taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, in a key Atlantic Division matchup.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs