Leafs look to break los­ing Hab-it

Toronto goes into Hockey Night in Canada matchup hav­ing lost 14 straight to ri­vals

The Province - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY lhornby@post­media.com

TORONTO — Here’s ev­ery­thing the Toronto Maple Leafs could want: Satur­day night, na­tional TV against their old­est ri­vals with the stands full.

But this big­gest of all reg­u­lar sea­son stages for the Leafs — lin­ing up against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens — is get­ting to be a pain in the pos­terieur. When they ar­rive at the Bell Cen­tre in Mon­treal, the Leafs will be try­ing to end a streak of 14 con­sec­u­tive losses to the Habs, 10 of those in reg­u­la­tion.

“Thanks for re­mind­ing me,” winger James van Riems­dyk said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils ended the Leafs’ un­de­feated start at three wins. “Hope­fully, we can change that and have a good talk af­ter.”

Van Riems­dyk had Toronto’s last win­ning goal against the Cana­di­ens, in a 5-3 vic­tory in Toronto, back on Jan. 18, 2014. Tyler Bozak, one of only five Leafs then on the ros­ter who is still with the team — along with J.V.R., Nazem Kadri, Mor­gan Rielly and Jake Gar­diner — as­sisted on it along with Phil Kes­sel. Jof­frey Lupul had an empty-net­ter and Jonathan Bernier out­du­elled Carey Price in goal.

Price didn’t seem to be trau­ma­tized by the event — he’s since strength­ened his ca­reer record against Toronto to 23-13-1. He has more wins against the Leafs than any other NHL club save for the Bos­ton Bruins (24), and has more saves against the Leafs (1,076) than any other team.

New Jersey goal­tender Cory Sch­nei­der is al­ready in the Leafs’ col­lec­tive head af­ter mak­ing 47 saves on Wed­nes­day, which makes fac­ing Price all the more daunt­ing.

“They’ll be ready for us and they have a great goal­tender as well,” Kadri said. “We have to find a way to get that (ex­tra) inch to put the puck in the back of the net in­stead of out­side it.”

He was re­fer­ring to all those posts the Leafs hit that might have changed the out­come of Wed­nes­day’s game. Price holds a .924 save per­cent­age against the Leafs, though the good news for Toronto is he’s one of the few pos­i­tives for the Cana­di­ens. Their re­vamped lineup has one win in four games. But they’ll have four days of rest to get ready.

Be­cause of a manda­tory day off Thurs­day, the Leafs had a 24-hour respite from an in­tense video ses­sion and a ha­rangue by Bab­cock. The head coach was mighty peeved that the Leafs didn’t pay at­ten­tion to the scout­ing data on the Devils, who dis­rupted Toronto with their speed and spunk, then zapped them with a rare five-on-three short-handed goal.

“They skated us into the ground,” Bab­cock said Wed­nes­day night. “But it’s over with now. We have lots of time to look at the game tape and get ready to face a hun­gry Mon­treal team.”

As de­fence­man Mor­gan Rielly pointed out, Satur­day will be the Leafs’ first di­vi­sional game. Take away last sea­son’s fail against Mon­treal (0-3-1) and the Leafs gained 39 of a pos­si­ble 52 points against the rest of the At­lantic.

“We have to take those games very se­ri­ously,” Rielly said.

Goal­tender Fred­erik An­der­sen said the Leafs should learn from tak­ing last year’s play­off or­phan Devils too lightly on Wed­nes­day.

“Like I said be­fore (Wed­nes­day),” he said, “it doesn’t mat­ter what hap­pened be­fore. You can’t use the record (to pre­dict) any­thing. It’s a new game and we have to be pre­pared.”

James van Riems­dyk, right, scored the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last game-win­ner against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, way back in Jan­uary 2014. The Leafs have lost 14 straight games to the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens head­ing into their matchup on Satur­day. — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.