THE '09/10 SEASON BEGINS AGAINST MONTREAL
Thursday, 10.01.2009 / 7:00 PMCANADIENS (0-0-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (0-0-0)
-- Canadiens 0-0-0; Maple Leafs 0-0-0
-- Montreal and Toronto split their six-game season series last season, the last a 6-2 win for the Canadiens on April 4.
-- One of Toronto’s biggest additions, defenseman Mike Komisarek
, will be facing his old mates in his first outing for the Leafs. Komisarek earned an All-Star selection last season for the Habs.
: One year after taking the East's top seed, Montreal had a disappointing campaign last season, costing coach Guy Carbonneau his job before the Habs barely squeaked into the final playoff spot. Montreal has had moderate success thus far, finishing 4-2-1 in the preseason, but coach Jacques Martin and GM Bob Gainey will be expecting more production out of an offense that finished eighth in the conference in scoring in 2008-09, after adding Michael Cammalleri
, Brian Gionta
, and Scott Gomez
. The Canadiens' new trio of forwards totaled 200 points last season, but those points didn't come cheaply. The three will make a combined $18 million this year.
: Brian Burke's rebuilding operation is in full swing, and the GM wasted little time molding the roster into a similar unit to the one he won a Stanley Cup with in Anaheim in 2007. Those Ducks were noted for their physical play, and with Toronto adding Francois Beauchemin
, Garnet Exelby
and Komisarek to accompany maturing defenseman Luke Schenn
, the Leafs have enough brawn on the blue line that few teams will push them around. Newly-signed winger Colton Orr
also brings toughness to the lineup. So far this has worked for Toronto, which went 6-3-0 in the preseason, but the goals may not come so quickly. Phil Kessel
, perhaps the biggest fish reeled in by Burke this offseason, is out until at least mid-November.
-- After spending his entire career in the defensive-minded Devils organization, Gionta might be primed for a big season in Montreal. The winger is on a roll with three goals in the last three preseason games. For Toronto, Swedish winger Viktor Stahlberg
is set to make his NHL debut, and if he produces as he did this past month, he'll become a mainstay. Stahlberg finished September at a blistering pace, netting five goals in the Leafs' final five exhibition games.
-- With Kessel out of the lineup, Toronto's offense could prove sluggish, and the loss of Mike Van Ryn
will make the Maple Leafs thinner on the blue line. The Leafs may also be without gritty center Jamal Mayers
, who has not played since a collision with Pittsburgh's Tim Wallace last week. Montreal should have a full lineup for the opener.
Stat Pack --
One might assume the Kessel-less Leafs will want for scoring, but that may not be the case. Despite finishing outside the East's top eight, Toronto ended the 2008-09 season a respectable 10th overall in goals.
-- With the excitement of opening night, it's unlikely either side will come out flat. Look for Montreal to unleash their newly added firepower, but don't be surprised if Orr and Toronto's physical blueliners attempt to establish the tone early, both for the game and the season.
-- David Kalan