It has been a long time since a season for the Canadiens has been awaited with such impatience. First, because it’s been just as long since the team seemed so competitive, but also because of the pandemic and the restrictions that ensue.
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In these gloomy times when it is forbidden to leave your home after 8 p.m. (unless you have a dog), rejoicing in the success of a team will undoubtedly help to pass the long evenings of the next few weeks.
“I know there are a lot of fans who have been waiting for this comeback for a long time. We hope that it will give everyone a good boost in terms of mental health, that we can bring back a smile and excitement, ”said Claude Julien on Tuesday, just before the start of the race. team for Toronto.
And what’s better than a game against the Maple Leafs to drive away boredom?
On the attack, Torontonians present a face similar to that of recent campaigns. Of course, Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds have succeeded Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, but the threat will still come mainly from Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares.
Led by this triumvirate, the representatives of the Queen City scored 237 goals (2es in the NHL) and had a success rate of 23.1% (6es) on the power play last season. The opportunity will be perfect to test the new defense mechanism, more aggressive outnumbered, put in place by Claude Julien and his assistants.
“It will be a big challenge. The Leafs are counting on a good team. But I consider that we did a very good job during the camp to make sure we can cope with it, ”said Artturi Lehkonen, the second most used striker in the Canadian short of a man, the year latest.
Two weeks away
This meeting will be the first in a series of six that the Habs will play on opposing rinks before playing a first game at home on January 28.
Those six games in 11 days equate to just over 10% of the regular season. Getting angry when leaving could have serious consequences. Especially considering the fact that all matches will be played against intra-division rivals.
“Having a good start is always important. And due to the 56-game schedule, it will be even more so. We will have the impression of running a sprint, ”agreed Ben Chiarot.
“With the number of new players we have, it will be a good thing to start the season with a trip. It will allow us to spend time together, ”added the defenseman of the trip which will also take him and his teammates to Edmonton for two games, and to Vancouver for three others.
Sparks to be expected
Moreover, these sequences of meetings against the same team may bring its share of sparks.
“If something happens in a game, it won’t take a month before we see this opponent again. It will be like small series. There are teams that we will face 10 times (Ottawa and Toronto). Against some teams, these series could make the difference between qualifying for the playoffs or missing them, ”argued Claude Julien.
With 10 games against the Maple Leafs, who have added a bit of sandpaper to their roster with, among others, the additions of Simmonds and Zach Bogosian, there is likely to be sparks.
“It will not be a phenomenon unique to our division. The four teams that reached the association final last summer had some surly players in their lineup. I believe this is a trend across the league. We’re going back to playing a little more physical and tight, ”said Chiarot.
At least this time, Montrealers will be equipped to not let themselves be stepped on. The most fascinating thing is that it seems that Marc Bergevin managed to do it without slowing down his team.