Saturday night marked the end of the season for the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs as the two teams closed out the season at the Bell Center. The two will be more than happy to put the season behind them as the end result was not what either team had hoped for 82 games ago.
If you think Montreal’s season was disastrous, you are 100% right but at least we can say the team was bad for most of the season and although some of us might have been optimistic, we all kind of knew that it just was not in the cards this year. If you are a Leaf fan however, things were not as clear just a few months ago when Toronto still held a playoff spot and held their destiny in their hands. As it has been the case in Toronto’s recent seasons the team crumbled under pressure and began a downward spiral that they never recovered from.
So that makes you wonder, who had the bigger disappointment of the two teams? The Habs or the Leafs? I would have to go with the Leafs. Now don’t get me wrong we had one of the worst seasons that I have ever witnessed since I started watching hockey but at least it will give us an opportunity to right the ship. Gone is the defensive minded Jacques Martin along with the horrible GM, Pierre Gauthier and his assistant Bob Gainey. Geoffrey Molson has stated that he will find the right man for the job when selecting a new GM and he seems determined to not only get this team back into the playoffs but to actually compete for the Stanley Cup.
The Leafs? Well they do have a new coach in Randy Carlyle but let’s just say they will have their work cut out for them. I know what you’re thinking right about now. Won’t the Habs have their work cut out for them as well? Yes, they will but when you look at the nucleus of young player’s this team has along with a couple of key veterans it’s not that much of a stretch to think that they will be much more competitive next season.
Game 82 was all about moving on and letting go of a bad season. Montreal seemed to grasp that concept as they played loose while the Leafs played a tense game. This was very apparent early in the game when Tomas Plekanec scored at the 3:20 mark while the Habs where down by two men. Pleky got himself a breakaway off the faceoff and actually lost control of the puck while attempting his shot. Ben Scrivens overplayed the puck and it finally snuck past him on an awkward looking goal.
This pattern continued into the second period when Max Pacioretty benefited from a sloppy line change by Mike Komisarek, allowing the winger to enter the Leafs zone with ease. Patches then wristed one past Scrivens, after determining that his teammates where covered. After scoring his team’s second goal, Pacioretty did not stop there as he pasted Matt Frattin into the Habs bench with a nice hit at the halfway mark of the period.
The Leafs did get some shots in throughout the first two periods but Peter Budaj played well and Montreal did a better job of capitalising on their opportunities. Things changed early in the third however as Toronto came out strong, leading to their only goal of the game.
The goal came from a Dion Phaneuf point shot that Budaj was screened on just 0:25 in. The Leafs kept coming after the goal as it seemed to rejuvenate the whole team. This continued until Eric Cole changed the momentum of the game for the final time, when he scored his 35th goal of the season. It was typical Cole goal as he used his speed to beat the defenders before beating Scrivens glove side.
The two teams exchanged chances for the rest of the period until Toronto opted to pull their goalie with less than three minutes to play. Their gamble almost paid off as they came inches of pushing the puck past a downed Budaj but Montreal’s defenders did a nice job of clearing the crease, allowing Brad Staubitz to dump it out of danger. Staubitz’ shot actually hit the empty net causing his teammates to celebrate all around as the gritty forward got his first point as a Hab and his first goal in over a year.
With the win Montreal still finished dead last in the Conference, two points behind the 13th seeded Maple Leafs. The Habs qualify for the lottery draft this Tuesday and it will be interesting to see who will represent the team as well as what spot the Habs will draft from.
Again, both of these teams suffered embarrassing seasons and are in dire need of repair. Montreal and Toronto are arguably the best two markets in hockey and yet neither team will be in the playoffs. The Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in seven years while Montreal will be missing them for the first time in five. Does anybody remember the last time these rivals met in the playoffs?
Imagine a Habs vs Leafs playoff match up in today’s NHL now that is something that both teams need as well as the hockey world. The rivalry lives on through bragging rights but the rivalry would be that much better if they squared off in the playoffs on a consistent basis. My first wish is that the Habs get back into cup contending form a.s.a.p. but it would make it that much better if the Leafs were one of the teams we trampled over in the playoffs to get there.
HiD Three Stars
- Max Pacioretty
- Erik Cole
- Tomas Plekanec
HiD Turning Point
Erik Cole's third period goal.