Maple Leafs End Season on a High-Note; Sweep Season-Series vs. Montreal for First Time Since 1992-93

Toronto (4) Montreal (2) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Saturday night marked the second last day of the NHL’s regular season calendar before the long-awaited Stanley Cup Playoffs commence on April 11th. A classic Toronto versus Montreal showdown would close out game #82 for each respective club, yet with two very polarizing outlooks. 

On one hand, many players in the Canadiens organization are simply under evaluation for jobs next season after a dreadful 2017-18 campaign. Subsequently, the Maple Leafs are locked and loaded for a playoff run and had an opportunity to surpass the franchise record for most points in a single-season—103.

Although it was a classic Hockey Night in Canada, featuring an always enticing rivalry, it turned out to be much more than just a spectacle. 

The hockey community suffered a great loss on Friday night as the Humboldt Broncos, of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, were involved in a fatal team bus crash en route to a playoff game in Nipawin, SK. Tragically, the accident left 15 people dead and 14 injured after colliding with a semi-trailer truck at high speeds.

As many hockey players know, the team bus is often a second home during the season and for junior hockey players especially. It’s a loss that renders most speechless, seeing as the implications of a team bus ride, normally cherished with our friends and teammates, something that seems so simple, could end in such a tragedy.

Growing up with the game, these joys can become second nature until such an occurrence such puts the world around us into perspective. 

If you would like to donate and help the affected families with any expenses incurred, you can do so at https://ca.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos.

In terms of the action, it proved to be Toronto’s final opportunity to tune-up before the post-season grind begins in less than a week’s time. Not to mention, the Buds had a chance to sweep the season series for the first time since 1992-93. 

Auston Matthews was certainly motivated for the matchup.

As the action got underway, it would be Toronto striking first to take a 1-0 advantage in the opening twenty minutes. The second power play unit, led by Matthews himself, continued to carry the load and managed to combine for a fifth-consecutive power play goal together. 

Evidently, Mitch Marner is no longer the only team member producing power play points.

Although the Canadiens lacked a true motivator, they still went on to give Toronto quite a handful in the coming periods. 

Daniel Carr helped find the equalizer at the 16:04 mark of the second to tie the game at 1-apiece. Former Toronto Marlie, Kerby Rychel, also recorded his 1st assist of the season.

After forty minutes, the score remained deadlocked but not for long as the third period rolled around. It took all but 0:37 seconds for the Maple Leafs to get themselves back on top, courtesy of Zach Hyman’s 15th goal of the season. Nylander fed Matthews for another chance at the net but this time Carey Price was able to make the initial save, leaving a rebound for Zach Hyman to poke over the goal-line.

Additionally, Auston Matthews has recorded at least a point (6G, 7A) in all nine games since his return from a ten-game injury.

The action remained relatively quiet until crunch time when Nazem Kadri added an insurance tally with another power play goal—giving the Maple Leafs a 3-1 lead. 

Two minutes later, the Canadiens pulled Carey Price in a last-gasp attempt to salvage the game and would pull within one thanks to Jeff Petry’s 12th.

It proved to be a valiant effort but Montreal did too little, too late, and would succumb to another goal against. Carey Price was back in between the pipes and mishandled a dump-in, allowing Patrick Marleau to easily record his 27th goal—the same mark he achieved last season as a member of the San Jose Sharks. 

When it was all said and done, the Maple Leafs walked away with a 4-2 victory over their nemesis to end the season on a high-note prior to the playoffs. On the back of his 38th win of the season, Frederik Andersen rewrites the record books Ed Belfour and Andrew Raycroft for the single-season franchise record. 

Even more importantly, the Maple Leafs set the franchise record for most points in a single-season—reaching the 105 mark for the very first time in team history.

Following tonight’s results, Toronto is still unsure as to who their first-round opponent will be and will have to wait until tomorrow to find out. 

The Bruins are set to face-off against the Florida Panthers tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. EST; If Boston wins, they will reign as the Atlantic Division’s top seed and avoid playing the Maple Leafs. Otherwise, Boston will have the pleasure of meeting Toronto in the opening round and vice versa for Tampa Bay.

Time can only tell.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_  

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs