It is bad enough as an NHL to get thrashed on your home rink in front of your fans; it is a whole other thing when the beat down comes at the hands of your mortal enemy. The Montreal Canadiens are having a tough time this season. Nineteen games in and their record is below .500 and the boo birds have been out in force at the Bell Centre letting the players know how unhappy they are. After a terrible loss on Thursday night at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes, a team with no wins so far in regulation this season, the fans were not in any mood for anything less than a win against the high flying Toronto Maple Leafs.
This season it has been a tale of two cities for the pair of premiere Canadian hockey clubs. And that tale is of two franchises going in opposite directions. For the past 50 years it has been the Habs who have been on top. Looking down upon the hapless Maple Leafs. Winning game after head-to-head game. Going to the playoffs most years while the Leafs were mired at the bottom of the standings. They hit bottom and earned several high draft choices. Rebuilding, they got a bunch of winners on board with Lou Lamorillo, Brendan Shannahan and coach Mike Babcock. A winning mentality has begun to surface courtesy of this and a slew of young, talented players. They are in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division this season and scoring a ton of goals. Montreal is third from the bottom and having trouble scoring goals. Going into the game the Leafs were the favourites.
Everyone in a bleu-blanc-rouge uniform was well aware of the thin ice they were skating on. Full effort and results were expected. As such they came out of the gate with plenty of jump in their legs. The 1st period belonged to the Habs. They outshot the visitors 16-6, but were not able to score any goals. This despite the fact that Claude Julien had moved Max Pacioretty to the top line with Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk in the hopes of gaining more offence. It did not work out that way. They did not score and we on the ice for the first two Toronto goals.
Those two goals (in the 2nd period) happened bang, bang. That is something fans of Montreal have gotten used to this season. Too many times once a team scores one goal against the Habs another one follows soon afterwards. It has got to be demoralizing. Shows a real lack of confidence. The two goals happened within 37 seconds of each other by Ron Hainsey, his 50th career goal and 1st with the Leafs, and Nazem Kadri. Montreal could not muster a response. Of any kind.
That 2-0 lead would be all the Leafs needed on this evening. Their goalie, Frederik Andersen, the most used goalie in the NHL this season, was coming off a shutout and obviously in the zone. He made some good saves on the evening robbing Brendan Gallagher, Drouin and Phillip Danault. Back-to-back shutouts and a 6 game winning streak for Toronto.
Even at 2-0, despite the fact that this season Toronto had never lost a game they went into the 3rd period leading, there must have been some hope of a comeback. That was snuffed out a mere 25 seconds into the 3rd when 4th liner extraordinaire Connor Brown found himself alone at the side of the net and roofed the puck over a helpless Charlie Lindgren. Game over. After 2 more goals against Lindgren was pulled allowing Antti Niemi to come in and play his first minutes for the Habs. He allowed the 6th and final goal by Auston Matthews, his second of the period/game in his first game back after missing four games due to an undisclosed upper body injury. 6-0 ouff!
On the plus side I have to say that one of the bright lights on the night for the Habs for me was the play of Charles Hudon. Something happened almost every time he was on the ice. He works hard and creates offence. The fact that he ended the evening -3 was most certainly not a reflection on his play. Why not try him with Drouin and Galchenyuk? Put Pacioretty back with Danault. That has proven to be a winning combo in the past why mess with it?
The next game for Montreal is Tuesday on the road against Dallas. Maybe a good thing for Montreal to be away from the Bell Centre at this time.
-Goals: 2nd Period:
12:07: Toronto – Ron Hainsey assisted by Dominc Moore and Tyler Bozak
12:44: Toronto – Nazem Kadri assisted by Patrick Marleau and Frederik Andersen
0:25: Toronto – Connor Brown assisted by Nikita Zaitsev and Zach Hyman
8:11: Toronto – James van Riemsdyk assisted by Tyler Bozak
8:59: Toronto – Auston Matthews assisted by Mitch Marner and Matt Martin
15:27: Toronto – Auston Matthews assisted by Mitch Marner
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 31
Toronto – 31
-Attendance: 21, 273
-3 Stars: 1) Frederik Andersen
2) Auston Matthews
3) Nazem Kadri
-Final Score: Montreal – 0
Toronto – 6