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2021 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens

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The Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Montreal Canadiens. It doesn’t get much better than that for Canadian hockey fans.

With the 56 games regular season behind them, it is time for these long-time rivals to battle it out in the first round of the 2021 NHL playoffs.

These two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years. Fans from both franchises have been waiting a long time for this.

The worst part will be that the arenas will not be packed full of fans. The atmosphere inside Scotia Bank Arena and the Bell Centre would be insane. With no fans inside the arenas for this series, you can bet that the television ratings will be huge.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens Regular Season Record

These two historic rivals met 10 times this season with Toronto coming out on top. The Maple Leafs ended the regular season with a 7-2-1 record against the Canadiens. As good as that is, we all know that none of that matters now. all that matters now is who wins four games first in this best of seven games series.

In five of the ten games these two played this season, the final score was only decided by one goal. In the first game of the season, Toronto won 5-4 in overtime. Here is a closer look at how their regular season played out.

January 13th: 5-4 Toronto in Overtime
February 10th: 4-2 Toronto
February 13th: 2-1 Montreal
February 20th: 5-3 Toronto
April 7th: 3-2 Toronto
April 12th: 4-2 Montreal
April 28th: 4-1 Toronto
May 3rd: 3-2 Montreal in Overtime
May 6th: 5-2 Toronto
May 8th: 3-2 Toronto

As you can see, eight out of the ten games were close games. So if the regular season was any indication of how this first-round series is going to go, expect a few close games.

The first three games of the 2021 NHL playoffs have all been decided by one goal and two of those games required overtime. It is safe to say, that game one between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens could be a close game.

Toronto Maple Leafs Key Strengths

Goal Scoring

The Toronto Maple Leafs like to score goals and they like to score plenty of them. They had the sixth-highest goals for this season with 187. Leading the way was NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews.

Matthews finished the regular season with 41 goals and 25 assists for 66 points in 52 games. His 66 points paired with the 67 points by line-mate Mitch Marner made them the second-highest scoring duo this season. They will be looking to connect as often as possible in their hopes of advancing to the second round.

The Toronto Maple Leafs also have scoring threats in John Tavares, William Nylander, Zach Hyman, and Jason Spezza. All of these players scored 10 or more goals for Toronto this season.

Depth

The Maple Leafs have more depth in their lineup than the Canadiens. That is not to say that Montreal doesn’t have depth, because they do. Montreal added Corey Perry and Eric Staal this season for depth and experience.

Toronto’s depth of Joe Thornton, Spezza, Nick Foligno, and Wayne Simmonds gives the blue and white a clear advantage in the depth department, even though Staal and Perry have won the Stanley Cup before.

Montreal Canadiens Key Strengths

Physical Play

The Montreal Canadiens had 1,585 hits this season compared to Toronto’s 1,003. Every time these two teams meet, Montreal usually leads in the physicality department. The team that is hitting more is usually the team without the puck.

With that being said, Toronto will have to try and match Montreal’s physical play to avoid being run down from it what could be a grueling best of seven series. This type of play is one of the reasons Toronto added Foligno, but will that be enough?

The Canadiens will be relying on their physical play to try and wear down Toronto’s scoring threats early on in the series, so Toronto will need to make sure they’re ready.

Goaltending

Although Jack Campbell had a fantastic season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the advantage in goaltending has to go to Montreal. Carey Price has proven many times that he can steal a game.

Montreal will need Price to play as he did during the 2020 play-in-round, where he helped Montreal upset the Pittsburgh Penguins. If he is 100% healthy from his recent concussion, he will be looked upon to try and steal a game for Montreal when they need it.

With games three and four being played on back-to-back nights, both teams will likely play their backups. Montreal will use Jake Allen and Toronto will use Frederik Andersen.

Toronto Maple Leafs Key Weakness

Power Play

Going into the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a power play that has struggled a lot lately. Over the last two months, Toronto only went 6/71 on the power play. That is a huge drop-off from where the team was at the beginning of the season.

Toronto will need to correct their power play if they have any hope of making it out of the first round. Even if they survive the first round with a weak power play, they make it far until it improves.

The Montreal Canadiens Key Weakness

Defense

Montreal will need to make sure they play sound defense against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto can cycle the puck and control play to wear down a team’s defense.

Montreal will need to be able to limit Toronto’s cycle game. If they can’t contain the Maple Leafs offense, then Montreal will have some long nights in their end.

Series Prediction

I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be able to use their depth and scoring ability to beat the Montreal Canadiens in six games. Toronto wins the series 4-2.

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