No. 4 Canadiens at No. 1 Maple Leafs
7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVAS, NHLN
Stanley Cup First Round, Game 1
The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will meet in the playoffs for the first time since 1979 when they play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.
It will be the 15th time the two oldest teams in the NHL have played in the postseason, adding another chapter to an intense rivalry.
“It’s kind of like Red Sox-Yankees,” Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said. “Two fan bases and organizations with rich histories in this League over the last 100-plus years, so it’s pretty incredible.”
Toronto, which won the Scotia North Division, has not won a playoff series since 2004, including losing in five games to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season. The Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the Qualifiers before losing in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
“I want to make a run regardless if there is pressure or not,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “We want to compete for a Stanley Cup and we’ve got a great opportunity to do that.”
Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said he is encouraged with the way his team has prepared for the series.
“I really like the way the guys have practiced, the engagements, the focus, the commitment, the speed, the execution,” he said Thursday. “You could see the pace pick up as the week went on.”
Goalie Carey Price, who missed 19 of Montreal’s final 21 regular-season games, is expected to play, along with defenseman Shea Weber, who missed the final eight games with an upper-body injury.
Teams that win Game 1 are 490-222 (68.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 7-1 in the first round last season.
Here are 3 keys for Game 1:
1. Each team healthy
Price, Weber and forward Brendan Gallagher return to the Canadiens lineup and will be key components for Montreal. Price sustained a concussion April 19 against the Edmonton Oilers, Gallagher missed the final 21 games of the regular season with a broken thumb and Weber, Montreal’s captain, sustained an upper-body injury April 18 and didn’t play the rest of the regular season.
“Being back out there is like [being] a little kid,” Weber said.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian and forward Zach Hyman return for the Maple Leafs. Bogosian has missed 10 games since sustaining a shoulder injury April 20 and Hyman has missed 11 games since sustaining a knee injury April 18.
2. Danault line vs. Matthews, Marner
The line of Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar is one of the better defensive units in the NHL, but Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said he won’t use his advantage of having the final change for the first two games in Toronto to keep Matthews and linemate Mitchell Marner away from them.
“We don’t feel the need to protect Auston from anyone,” Keefe said of Matthews, who won the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the NHL in goals (41) this season.
Danault said his line is prepared.
“Obviously whenever ‘Matts’ is on the ice it’s a big challenge,” Danault said. “He’s a big weapon for them scoring goals.”
3. It’s Campbell time
Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell, who has played 86 regular-season games, will make his postseason debut when he gets the start in Game 1.
“I’ve been on the bench in the playoffs, and you still feel that excitement, but to be able to have a chance to be in there now, it’s definitely awesome,” he said.
Campbell went 17-3-2 with a 2.15 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 games this season.
Canadiens projected lineup
Tomas Tatar — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli — Nick Suzuki — Joel Armia
Corey Perry — Eric Staal — Josh Anderson
Paul Byron — Jake Evans — Artturi Lehkonen
Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Jon Merrill — Shea Weber
Brett Kulak — Ben Chiarot
Maple Leafs projected lineup
Zach Hyman — Auston Matthews — Mitchell Marner
Nick Foligno — John Tavares — William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev — Riley Nash — Alexander Kerfoot
Joe Thornton — Jason Spezza — Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly — TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin — Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin — Zach Bogosian
Injured: Ben Hutton (illness)
Price allowed two goals on 15 shots in 39:38 during a conditioning stint with Laval of the American Hockey League on Monday … Nash will make his Maple Leafs debut after being acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 10 … Bogosian will play on Toronto’s third defense pair alongside Sandin, who will be making his postseason debut.