Only 1 Thing Can Stop the Toronto Maple Leafs From Dusting the Habs

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 03: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens and Alexander Kerfoot #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck after a face-off during the second period at the Bell Centre on May 3, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MAY 03: Nick Suzuki #14 of the Montreal Canadiens and Alexander Kerfoot #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck after a face-off during the second period at the Bell Centre on May 3, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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It’s Official: The Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.

After the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 last night, the North Division Playoff Matchups are set.  The Flames, Canucks and Senators will be going on vacation, while the Jets will play the Oilers and the Leafs will play the Habs.

It’s crazy to think that if this series goes the full length the Leafs and Habs will have played 17 times this year, and that, at a minimum, they will face each other 14 times.

The Leafs and Canadiens are expected to start their series a week from yesterday, though nothing is, at this point, official.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens

Last year the Leafs went into the play-in series against Columbus as a massive favorite. The two teams were a bit closer in the standings than they should have been, but the Jackets had over-achieved while the Leafs had massively under-achieved (i.e a six game losing streak that led to Babcock getting fired + having the 24th best goaltending in the league despite some elite team-level stats).

We all know what happened: despite their supposed lack of grit and leadership the Leafs dominated the series, especially from a defensive standpoint.  They even showed the most grit/leadership I’ve ever seen when they made an improbable last second comback to force a game five.

Unfortunately, due to the bad luck of facing two separate goalies who each went on 50 save streaks during a five game series, while setting a modern day NHL playoff record for save percentage in a series, the Leafs lost.

They deserved to win, and they played well, but hockey is a game where goalies can change the outcome.  Even though adding Foligno and Brodie does make the Leafs a better team, the difference is between maybe a top three team and a top two team – they were already great, they just weren’t getting the results.

Despite nausiatingly simple (and wrong) narratives about leadership and the type of players you supposedly need to win in the playoffs, the Leafs lost last year because Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares didn’t score enough.  They didn’t lose for any other reason than Elvis Merzlikens had the best week of his life.

This is the only way Montreal even has a chance to beat the Leafs who are a superior opponent to them in every way.

The Leafs are better at offense, defense, special teams, goalie and coaching.  The Canadiens hopes are pinned to exactly one thing: goalie-ing the league’s best offense. It might happen. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a great team, but even the best team will lose any random series 30% of the time.

Next. Leafs Top 10 Prospects. dark

If this does happen, it’s not because of grit or leadership or playoff toughness.  Goalies don’t care about those things.  The Leafs should beat Montreal, just like they should have beaten Columbus.