Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#43 Montreal Canadiens 6 vs.
#44 Toronto Maple Leafs -140
Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 7:05pm EST
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
Written by Valdis Pans

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The newly formed, all-Canadian North Division will get going with a clash in Toronto, as the local Maple Leafs will welcome the Montreal Canadiens on the first day of the 2020-21 NHL season.

Habs Add Anderson, Toffoli

Despite faring worse during the regular campaign than in 2018-19, when they didn’t even make the postseason, the Montreal Canadiens got out of the Stanley Cup qualifying round, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in four contests (3-1), reaching the First Round only for the second time in the last five years. The Habs eventually were bettered by the Philadelphia Flyers (4-2) during it, but still finished last year better than expected after ending the regular campaign 5th in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference (31-31-9). Tomas Tatar was the team’s highest-scoring player throughout the regular season, picking up 61 points and a squad-high 22 goals alongside Brendan Gallagher (43 points).

Goalie Carey Price went 27-25-6 before the coronavirus lockdown with a 2.79 GAA, a .909 save percentage and four shutouts, and was 5-5 during the postseason with a 1.78 GAA, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts. He has recorded a 26-15-4 career tally against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 2.62 GAA, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts. On Oct. 6, Montreal traded in Max Domi and 3rd-round pick in 2020 for Columbus Blue Jackets' Josh Anderson. The team has also acquired Tyler Toffoli (Vancouver Canucks), netminder Jake Allen (St. Louis Blues), as well as Corey Perry (Dallas Stars) and Michael Frolik (Buffalo Sabres), who both have been placed on waivers. The Canadiens finished last season, scoring the 13th lowest number of goals per game (2.93), while allowing the 11th highest quantity on the defensive end (3.10). The team was 22nd in power play (17.7%) and 19th in penalty kill (78.7%).

Leafs Capture Thornton, Simmonds

The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs brought another disappointment for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who - after being eliminated in the First Round during the previous three seasons and failing to make the postseason for three straight years prior - were eliminated by the Columbus Blue Jackets during the qualifying round (2-3). And that despite ending the regular campaign with their third straight 3rd-place finish in the Atlantic Division (36-25-9). Predictably, Auston Matthews was the team’s top scorer throughout the 2019-20 season, amassing 47 goals and 80 points before the lockdown, adding further two snipes and four assists in the qualifiers against the Jackets.

Goalie Frederik Andersen posted a 29-13-7 tally for the year with a 2.85 GAA, a .909 save percentage and three shutouts, and went 2-3 during the postseason with a 1.84 GAA, a .936 save percentage and one shutout. He is 7-3-2 against the Montreal Canadiens historically with a 2.57 GAA, a .923 save percentage and one shutout. Incomings-wise, the Leafs have heavily relied on experience, inking one-year contracts with the likes of Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks), Wayne Simmonds (Buffalo Sabres) and Zach Bogosian (Tampa Bay Lightning). Aaron Dell (Sharks), meanwhile, has joined as a third-string goalie. Toronto finished last year 3rd in most goals scored per game (3.39), 6th in most goals conceded on average (3.17), 5th in power play (23.1%) and 21st in penalty kill (77.7%).

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The Canadiens were in a surprisingly feisty form last season, unexpectedly beating the likes of the St. Louis Blues (twice), the Vegas Golden Knights (twice) and eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Stanley Cup qualifiers. They will have two world-class goalies in their squad for the upcoming campaign in Carey Price and Jake Allen, some potential scoring depth with the arrivals of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, as well as a very promising situation with the youth the team has on its roster. Having said that, the Maple Leafs seem to be going all-in. The team has added some serious quality to its ranks and will see an extra-fit Auston Matthews lead the side, with the 23-year-old having given special attention to his physical form during the off season. Montreal has won the last four matchups in this series, but do expect Toronto to start the new campaign brightly, with the team currently being 3-0-3 in its last six games against the Canadian opposition.

Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs (-140)

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Five of the past six contests between Toronto and Montreal have witnessed no less than seven snipes netted. But do bank on this one to go under the total! The very last five home outings of the Maple Leafs have all been low-scoring affairs, with an average of just 3.40 strikes buried per fixture, while six of the previous seven road contests of the Canadiens have all cruised below the set goal-mark, averaging 4.83 snipes per game.

Prediction: Under 6.5
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Written By Valdis Pans , "Valdis Pans"

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