Hi hockey! Welcome back! Please stay awhile. Lord knows we missed you at this time last year. But for 2013-14, all 82 games have been scheduled, and the first one for the Toronto Maple Leafs gets underway tonight. The Leafs are in enemy territory as they take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Phil Kessel stole the spotlight as he signed an eight-year deal that’s believed to be worth around $64-million today. The new deal gives Leafs fans a huge sense of relief, as now we don’t have to worry through an entire season of rumours on Kessel’s future. He’s here to stay, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
But enough with the sentimentality, the Leafs have a hockey game to play tonight against the archrival Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Here’s what the lines looked like at the morning skate, via Jonas Siegel for the Leafs and John Lu for the Habs on their respective Twitters:
- I don’t know why Ashton isn’t on the third line instead of Bodie, either.
- It was also surprising to see Gardiner and Franson paired together because Randy Carlyle seemed dead-set on keeping the Fraser-Franson pairing together. That third pairing could be a weak spot, but they should do fine. I think it’s the smart play to get Gardiner-Franson on the ice as much as possible.
- No Morgan Rielly tonight, as he’ll be sitting out. Chances are he’ll rotate in and out of the lineup during this nine-game stint, then get sent back to junior.
- Reimer gets the start over Bernier, which is a little surprising, but probably comes down to Reimer having the better preseason. Bernier will surely start tomorrow against the Philadelphia Flyers.
- I predict at least one meaningless Orr-Parros fight in this game to “set the tone”, or some other such nonsense.
- The Habs have a pretty solid top nine forwards, and most of them have an abundance of speed. That could pose a problem to the Leafs’ defense, who struggled in their own zone a lot during the preseason and last year.
- The Habs’ weak spot could be their defense, which doesn’t strike me as a very strong group. They’ll be hoping Carey Price can bounce back from a tough year as well.
- The game can be seen tonight on the CBC and heard on TSN 1050 and is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., however that might not be the case if the Habs decide to have another lengthy pre-game ceremony involving torches this year.