Montreal will be quietly confident of getting back to winning ways here after losing two in a row. The Canadiens are one of the most successful franchises in NHL history and plenty of fans will be expecting Stanley Cup glory at some point in the near future although the side are out at 40/1 with Bet365 for the current season. So far this year, it has been hit and miss at Bell Centre but the hosts are more than capable of turning their form around. Don’t write Montreal off just yet, a bounce back could be on the cards.
Offensively, the Maple Leafs have been very exciting to watch this season. Auston Matthews has missed a chunk of time in recent weeks but that hasn’t hindered Toronto’s progress, far from it in fact. The Maple Leafs are on a season-high five match winning run and a sixth may be on the cards if they get it right here. Beating Montreal on the road is no easy feat but you wouldn’t back against Toronto on current form. Check out our thoughts on this all-Canadian affair below.
The Canadiens have won just eight games so far this season but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic ahead of this contest. First of all, Toronto cannot maintain their winning run forever and Montreal are arguably well equipped to stop the Maple Leafs.
Claude Julien will know that keeping things tight defensively will be key here. As solid as Toronto’s attacking performance has been so far this year, they are prone to errors in defence and the hosts will be looking to pile the pressure on.
KEY MAN: Shea Weber. Yes, a defenseman. Sitting at the top of the team for points scored so far this season, it says a lot about Montreal’s early season struggles. With four goals and nine assists, Weber is a magnificent talent – capable of linking up in attack but his impact and influence in front of his goaltender is his greatest strength. A solid performance here is expected given Toronto’s attacking prowess.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews’ upper body injury forced him out of a fourth straight game but the Maple Leafs have managed to find a way to without their star man. The first overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft has been simply sublime since breaking into top line but Toronto are showing that they can win in his absence – not a bad trait by any means.
Their latest success came against the New Jersey Devils in a shutout triumph and a similar defensive effort may put an end to any lingering critics. If you had to make a negative comment on Toronto’s performance so far this season, it would certainly be related to the defensive side of the puck.
KEY MAN: Nazem Kadri. No Matthews, no problem. In his last four games, Kadri has bagged four points (one goal, three assists) and he has certainly stepped up to fill the huge void left by Matthews. Kadri assisted the winner in Toronto’s 1-0 triumph over the Devils last time out and he could be set for another major role this weekend. Backing against Toronto due to Matthews’ injury? It might be worth reconsidering if Kadri maintains his current form.
Another very difficult contest to call. If Matthews was fighting fit, Toronto would be red hot favourites and punters will still fancy the visitors to emerge victorious here. Defensively, the Maple Leafs are far from solid and Montreal have the quality to expose their rivals. It could go either way but we are giving Toronto the edge based on recent form. Five wins in a row certainly trumps back-to-back defeats and siding with the form book may be wise.
CANADIENS 2-3 MAPLE LEAFS