Playoff Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens

John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports) /


An offense firing on all cylinders is fantastic but useless if the opposition keeps up with you. That’s why being stable defensively is crucial to winning.

For quite some time now, the Leafs were considered a poor defensive team. It appears to have gotten better with new additions. General manager Kyle Dubas added some defensive names over the past couple of seasons. That includes defensemen T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin, along with forwards Nick Foligno and Alex Kerfoot.

Four Leafs, including Muzzin and Brodie, averaged over one blocked shot per game. While no one averages one takeaway per game, six players average more than two takeaways per 60 minutes played. While Toronto’s eighth-worst penalty-kill is a little concerning, they place seventh in the NHL for goals against per game. The Habs rank 18th in the league, suggesting the Leafs are better defensively.

The Canadiens have been a stable team defensively for some time. They boast physical and defensive players on their team, such as Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher. Both should be returning from their respective injuries for Game 1.

Blocking shots is what head coach Claude Julien has taught throughout his coaching career, which is evident in his team’s play. Six players average more than one block per game. Takeaways aren’t their forte, with only two players averaging more than two per 60 minutes.

Their penalty kill ties with the Leafs, with both teams being vulnerable when in penalty trouble. The Leafs and Habs sound similar defensively because they are. I would give an edge to the Leafs, considering they force more turnovers and gave up fewer goals.

Edge: Toronto Maple Leafs