While the Montreal Canadiens have been playing down the revenge factor for Wednesday night’s game, the Maple Leafs certainly expect the Habs to want to make them pay for the 6-0 whipping that Toronto dished out when they last met at the Bell Centre.
“They’re going to want to come at us right out of the gate and put some pressure on us early so we have to be ready in the first 10 minutes and push them back,” centre Nazem Kadri said Wednesday following the game-day skate at the Air Canada Centre. “I don’t think Montreal will be a team to sit back and kind of dip their toe in the water.
“We can’t sit back and let them dictate the game.”
With a victory, the Maple Leafs would pull within a point of the Canadiens, who lead the Eastern Conference. The surprising 12-4-3 Habs haven’t lost in regulation time since that embarrassing shutout Feb. 9. Toronto has handed the Canadiens two of their four regulation losses this season.
Another win will give the Leafs 13 victories, one more triumph than any other team in the Northeast Division and equalling the win count of the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a 12-8-0 record — and three straight home victories — Toronto is off to one of its best starts since the 1993-94 season. But the Leafs also had the same number of points (24) after 20 games last season when they jumped out to an 11-7-2 start.
Despite the hype, coach Randy Carlyle didn’t want to describe the match as a “statement” game, preferring to say it was a “very important game” for both teams.
“They’re playing very well and we have to be prepared to play to a level that we haven’t played in the last little while, probably not since we last played them,” Carlyle said. “We have to establish a forechecking game. We have to establish that we’re going to play a good portion of the game in the opposition zone.
“But these are going to be very important points at the end of the year.”