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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens – Game #56 Preview, Projected Lines & TV Info

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The Ryan O’Reilly era begins on Hockey Night in Canada as the Maple Leafs look to end a recent trend of upset losses to their oldest rival (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Reflecting on the Mike Babcock era is a divisive subject among the fan base and not at all our goal here, but what he definitely got right was accurately predicting the culture shift to come in Toronto whereby coveted Southern Ontario-born players would want to come home and chase Stanley Cups in a Leaf sweater.

There is no more fitting of an occasion for Clinton, Ontario’s Ryan O’Reilly to make his Leafs debut than on HNIC against the Habs on home ice, where he’ll no doubt be greeted with a raucous reception tonight. The post-deadline-addition playoff anticipation hasn’t been this high in this market since the Brian Leetch trade back in 2004. The buzz will be palpable in the building.

Both O’Reilly and Noel Acciari were “adamant” about jumping straight into the lineup per Sheldon Keefe, and so we’ll get our first taste tonight of how they can transform the two bottom-six lines of the team, assuming O’Reilly lines up at 3C to start (we won’t know the official line combinations until closer to puck drop).

Acciari could slot in on the RW to start with the Leafs already having Matthews-Tavares-O’Reilly-Kampf down the middle, but he is also fully capable of lining up at center. We’ll probably see all manner of combinations here in the final 25 games. The possibilities are endless.

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In net, Ilya Samsonov is sick but will be a possibility for tomorrow’s game in Chicago. That means Joe Woll will start for the second time this season.


Head to Head: Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs

In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Canadiens in five out of five offensive categories and four out of five defensive categories.


Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the additions of Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari:

What is most exciting for me on the coaching side of it, which is why it was difficult to sleep: You have so many options now with such an abundance of depth at center. We can do lots of different things. There are people we can move and can play center or wing, including the guys we have acquired.

It gives me lots of options. I expect, between now and the end of the regular season, we will try a number of different things. We will try to get, A) a feel for what our best mix is, and B) potential adjustments and looks we can throw out depending on what the game or opponent calls for.

Keefe on where Ryan O’Reilly can slot into the lineup and if he might fit on John Tavares’ wing:

I mean, he is a great player. He would fit very well with anyone in our team and in any spot in our lineup.

Mark Giordano on his memories of playing against O’Reilly:

He has such a good stick. He knocks down pucks. He is frustrating to play against when he forechecks against you, gets his stick on the puck, and knocks it out of the air and stuff like that. He is a really detailed guy. He plays the right away.

Giordano on the vote of confidence in the players from the GM:

We are a team that believes in ourselves and believes we can go all the way. Making additions like this is management’s way of saying they feel the same way.

Giordano on the addition of Noel Acciari:

He is a hard guy to play against as well. Really, really finishes every check. He is on the body a lot. He is one guy for sure that when he is out there, you know he is out there. He always has a good stick. Extremely hard to play against.

We are excited to have him as well. They are going to be two huge adds for our team.

Giordano on the addition of another Southern Ontario player to the team:

I think it is great for the organization. Speaking for myself and I am sure some of the other guys, too, you take a lot of pride growing up. A lot of us were Leafs fans. You know what the game of hockey means to the city and the province.

It is exciting. We feel like we can do some damage.

John Tavares on the message from management with the additions of O’Reilly and Acciari:

When Kyle and the management group make a move like that, it sends a strong message of belief in the team and what we want to accomplish. We are really excited about it. It should be a real boost.

They are two really solid players in what they bring and what they have accomplished. Just overall, in terms of an energy perspective, any time you make those types of additions, it sends a strong message and gets the group energized and excited.

Tavares on the elements O’Reilly will bring:

Maybe a comparison isn’t the best way, but he just has a very similar style to Bergeron just with the awareness, the hockey sense, and the two-way ability. He is so strong on faceoffs. He is just an unbelievable competitor. Very strong on the puck. Leadership qualities.

He has a lot of versatility to his game. I remember seeing those things in junior hockey when we were playing against each other. He is an overall complete player. He is extremely competitive and showed that when he won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe. It is really impressive.

Those qualities will fit in really well with us and set a really good standard for guys to feed off of and learn from.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines*

*Updated: 6:51pm

Forwards
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#91 John Tavares – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #16 Mitch Marner
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kämpf – #19 Calle Järnkrok
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #52 Noel Acciari – #15 Alex Kerfoot

Defensemen
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #3 Justin Holl

Goaltenders
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#50 Erik Källgren

Extras: Conor Timmins, Wayne Simmonds, Jordie Benn
Injured/Out:
 Matt Murray, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete


Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

Forwards
#49 Rafel Harvey-Pinard – #14 Nick Suzuki – #17 Josh Anderson
#63 Evgenii Dadonov – #60 Alex Belzile – #68 Mike Hoffman
#27 Jonathan Drouin – #28 Christian Dvorak – #40 Joel Armia
#55 Michael Pezzetta – #32 Rem Pitlick – #56 Jesse Ylonen

Defensemen
#8 Michael Matheson – #52 Justin Barron
#54 Jordan Harris – #58 David Savard
#6 Chris Wideman – #26 Johnathan Kovacevic

Goaltenders
Starter: #34 Jake Allen
#55 Samuel Montembeault

Injured/Out: Carey Price, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, Sean Monahan, Kaiden Guhle, Jake Evans, Juraj Slafkovsky, Arber Xhekaj, Kirby Dach, Cole Caufield

 

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Maple Leafs clinch playoff berth with Panthers loss to Senators

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The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.

The Maple Leafs (44-20-9), who clinched when the Florida Panthers lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators, are second in the Atlantic Division, 22 points behind the Boston Bruins and seven ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s the seventh straight season Toronto has clinched a playoff berth. It hasn’t won a postseason series since 2004.

The Maple Leafs are led by forwards Mitchell Marner (94 points), William Nylander (81), Auston Matthews (77), and John Tavares (75). Ilya Samsonov is 24-9-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). Matt Murray is 14-8-2 with a 2.97 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games.

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Toronto made several moves prior to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on March 3, acquiring forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 17, defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 27, defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Washington Capitals on Feb. 28 and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 28.

O’Reilly is expected back before the playoffs begin April 17. He hasn’t played since getting hit in the hand by Matthews’ shot in the second period of a 4-1 loss at the Vancouver Canucks on March 4 and was projected to be out four weeks.

The Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, once each as the Toronto Arenas (1917-18) and the Toronto St. Patricks (1921-22). They are without an NHL championship since 1967.

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Canadian Bianca Andreescu retires from Miami Open match after suffering injury

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Canadian Bianca Andreescu suffered an apparent leg injury during the second set of her match against Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Miami Open on Monday.

Andreescu was injured in the third game of the second set of the Round of 16 match while trying to run down a ball in the back court.  She remained down on the court, before receiving medical attention and leaving the court in a wheelchair.

Alexandrova won the first set of the match 7-6, Andreescu was up 2-0 in the second set when she retired from the match due to the injury.

The match was delayed for an hour by rain in the middle of the opening set.

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The 22-year-old Canadian was playing well at the Miami tournament, entering play on Monday with victories over Emma Raducanu, No. 7 Maria Sakkari and Sofia Kenin earlier in the competition.

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Quick Reaction: Wizards 104, Raptors 114

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O. Anunoby37 MIN, 29 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 11-21 FG, 4-10 3FG, 3-4 FT, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 18 +/-

From the opening tip OG was a force offensively and continued to flash the self creation signs that everyone wants to see, he had a career high 18 in the first quarter and hit a lot of tough jumpers off the bounce, as well as spaced the floor with catch and shoot triples.

P. Siakam34 MIN, 19 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 7-17 FG, 1-3 3FG, 4-4 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, -3 +/-

Pretty poor game from Pascal by his standards, a lot of shots seemed forced and he couldn’t finish through contact, very well, his playmaking also was muted because he seemed to be hunting his own shot.

J. Poeltl26 MIN, 12 PTS, 12 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 6-9 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 7 +/-

Jakob’s floaters and push shots worked wonderfully tonight and he did a great job not rushing it like he does most games, offensive rebounding was also key as well, Jakob had 6 in this game which led to countless second chance points.

S. Barnes32 MIN, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 5-14 FG, 0-2 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-

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Solid game in his first game back from injury, hit some tough looks in the paint, passing looked good tonight as well, efficiency was a bit off but we can chalk that up to being rusty.

F. VanVleet36 MIN, 28 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 10-21 FG, 5-9 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 11 +/-

Offensive masterclass from Fred VanVleet, he was zooming all over the floor and he was really burning Washington with his outside shooting, but his playmaking shined really bright tonight as well.

W. Barton04 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

Left the game early with an injury.

C. Boucher22 MIN, 6 PTS, 7 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-

Boucher was battling on the class yet again and often gave Toronto an extra look tonight, he also was solid as a rim protector as well.

J. Dowtin Jr.19 MIN, 3 PTS, 2 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 14 +/-

Didn’t add a whole lot offensively but he was harassing guys on ball as a defender, and moving the rock well as well, would like to see Dowtin look for his own a bit more often

C. Koloko15 MIN, 0 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 7 +/-

Koloko entered the game by recording a steal and then a block on back to back possessions, and then he continued to play solid defense in drop coverage, really strong game for the rook.

M. Flynn07 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-3 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -10 +/-

Didn’t take advantage of his looks on the floor tonight.

P. Achiuwa06 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -10 +/-

Another rough night for Precious as he tries to regain his footing, just couldn’t find it defensively, ran the floor in transition just fine during limited time.

Nick Nurse

Although Toronto was healthier, Nurse didn’t force anyone into minutes that were going to damage the team.

Things We Saw

  1. OG Anunoby flashed creation skills once again, in the face up game he burned Washington many times and he even hit a pull up three.
  2. Christian Koloko played some pretty nice defense, his technique in drop was really good tonight.
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