The Montreal Canadiens exacted a measure of revenge on the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, defeating them 4-1 at the Air Canada Centre on the final game of the regular season for both clubs. The season series ended with the Leafs winning three of five games against the Habs, outscoring them 16-11 along the way. Despite the loss, the Leafs locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Philadelphia Flyers last night. If the Senators lose tonight against the Boston Bruins, in regulation or otherwise, the Leafs’ first round opponent will be the Habs. If the Senators win, the Leafs will play the Bruins. Either way, the Leafs are guaranteed to start the playoffs on the road. But before we get there, let’s take a look back at some story lines from the game last night.
A Game To Forget
Randy Carlyle will probably want all video, images, and text accounts of last night’s game (including this recap) thrown in a bonfire so all remnants of the forgettable contest are gone forever. Maybe he could get Brian Burke’s lawyers to help him scour the internet for evidence. The first period started relatively well for the Buds as they opened the scoring with yet another Phil Kessel power play goal. The goal was Kessel’s 20th of this 48-game season, marking the fifth consecutive campaign of 20-or-more goals for the 25-year-old winger. Actually, in a full 82-game season that prorates to 34 goals, in which case it would be Kessel’s fifth consecutive 30-goal season. However, that was pretty much the only bright spot for the Leafs as everything went downhill from there. The Leafs mustered only one measly shot in a horrific second period, but were somehow only down two goals after 40 minutes as James Reimer kept the game within reach. But Reimer’s night would end when he let in a soft Tomas Plekanec goal over his right shoulder two-and-a-half minutes into the third and there would be no comeback on this night. As bad as this loss was for the Leafs, they need to shake it off quickly with the playoffs starting next week.
No Rest For Reimer
The Leafs clinched a playoff spot last Saturday, and with back-to-back games in Florida last week I thought for sure Carlyle would give Reimer at least one night off. No such luck. Maybe Carlyle wanted to get as many points as possible in the final three games to prevent a slide out of fifth. I still think it’s more important to make sure Reimer is fresh heading into a playoff series where he’ll be the most important player on the ice for the Leafs. Ben Scrivens has shown himself capable of playing well when called upon, and he deserves the right to spell Reimer for mostly-meaningless late-season games. Reimer has been a workhorse for the Leafs, playing 33 out of 48 contests. He’s also faced the most shots against per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time out of goaltenders who have played at least 1000 minutes, and is tenth in even-strength save percentage in that group. I don’t expect Reimer to collapse from exhaustion any time soon, but a little rest wouldn’t hurt the third-year player, either.
Potential Playoff Rematch?
The CBC is undoubtedly licking its chops at the prospect of these two teams facing off in a seven-game series, and if you’re a fan of either team, you have to feel the same way. As mentioned earlier, the Leafs have had a lot of success against the Habs this season, but the Habs have beaten the Leafs pretty handily in two of those games as well. Montreal probably has more speed top-to-bottom in their lineup compared to the Leafs, but the Buds match up pretty well in size and grit. At the end of the day though, any chance the Leafs have of advancing past the first round falls squarely on the shoulders of James Reimer. Likewise for the Habs, they’ll need Carey Price (who got the night off last night) to regain his mid-season form, after a bit of a tough stretch for him. It seems fitting that the Ottawa Senators have an opportunity to screw up the dream matchup with a win tonight. Happy playoffs everybody.