MONTREAL CANADIENS at TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
7 p.m., Scotiabank Arena,
TV: Sportsnet, Radio: 590 AM
THE BIG MATCHUP
Jesperi Kotkaniemi vs. John Tavares
The Canadiens’ Kotkaniemi, drafted third overall in June, didn’t fare badly against Maple Leafs veterans in the pre-season. This is a whole different ball of wax, however, and if Leafs coach Mike Babcock chooses to put Tavares against Kotkaniemi, it could be a long night for the rookie. Failing that, Kotkaniemi probably would get Auston Matthews in a matchup. Call us crazy, but that wouldn’t be much easier.
FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Tavares’ debut
During the pre-season, John Tavares and Mitch Marner had a growth in chemistry, and their linemate, Zach Hyman, was saying on Tuesday that he is getting more accustomed to Tavares’ tendencies. Tavares will be motivated in his first game with Toronto, so expect to see him excel down low and in tight in the offensive zone.
2. Powerful plays
Presumably, the Canadiens will take at least one minor penalty, and the Leafs’ top power-play unit will get its first official opportunity to go to work. As threatening as Auston Matthews and Marner are off the boards, Tavares won’t be easy to move from the front of the net. Montreal will keep its fingers crossed its penalty kill is better than last year, when it was 30th overall.
3. Quick, proper decisions
The Canadiens’ main NHL group that faced the Leafs last week was a bit suffocating in its quickness and determination, but there’s no reason for that to be an overriding detriment for Toronto. On paper, the rosters aren’t overly comparable, but the Leafs have to be on their toes in the defensive zone. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner must set an example in moving the puck.
4. He looks familiar …
Max Domi, acquired from Arizona in the off-season, will make his Canadiens debut, wearing No. 13 and with his dad watching from the stands. Domi missed several pre-season games because of a suspension but is ready to go. “It’s one of the biggest rivalries in sports,” Domi said. “We know how much skill they have and how dangerous they are.”
5. New kids check in
As much as Matthews, Marner and Tavares eat up the headlines, it’s important for Leafs such as Andreas Johnsson, Par Lindholm, and Igor Ozhiganov to get off on the right skate. Johnsson didn’t have a great camp, while Lindholm was steady and Ozhiganov improved. Each has the ability, in his own way, to impact the outcome in the season opener.
MAPLE LEAFS LINES
Patrick Marleau-Auston Matthews-Tyler Ennis
Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch Marner
Josh Leivo-Nazem Kadri-Connor Brown
Andreas Johnsson-Par Lindholm-Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Rielly-Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott-Igor Ozhiganov
Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin-Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Joel Armia
Paul Byron-Max Domi-Artturi Lehkonen
Matthew Peca-Tomas Plekanec-Charles Hudon
Victor Mete-Jeff Petry
Mike Reilly-Noah Juulsen
Karl Alzner-Xavier Ouellet
Canadiens — D Shea Weber (knee), F Jacob de la Rose (heart), F Andrew Shaw (knee), D David Schlemko (knee), F Nicolas Deslauriers (face).
Maple Leafs — None.
Power play (2017-18)
Canadiens: 21.2% (13th)
Maple Leafs: 25% (2nd)
Penalty kill (2017-18)
Canadiens: 74.1% (30th)
Maple Leafs: 81.4% (11th)
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies