The 2013-14 NHL season finally gets underway tonight, and the Montreal Canadiens take center stage, as they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener.
The two rivals are both eager to put a first round playoff exit a season ago behind them, and begin the new season. Toronto made the postseason for the first time since 2004, and lost a heart breaking seven game series to the Boston Bruins. The Canadiens had an excellent regular season, finishing second in the Eastern Conference, but ultimately lost in just five games to the Ottawa Senators once the playoffs began.
The Maple Leafs shuffled their team quite a bit, though the core remains intact from a season ago. Joffrey Lupul, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri are all back up front, along with sniper Phil Kessel, who is fresh off signing an right year extension with the Leafs.
On the back end, Toronto will once again be led by Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson. Youngsters Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly remain on the roster, and will look to expand their roles from a year ago to really help out this team’s defensive group.
James Reimer looks to be getting the call between the pipes tonight, after his huge season a year ago led Toronto to the postseason.
New to the Leafs in net is Jonathan Bernier, who was brought over in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings. He will begin the year on the bench, but expect the pair to split time evenly most of the season. The Maple Leafs also brought in David Clarkson from the New Jersey Devils. Clarkson will begin to serve a ten game suspension tonight for leaving the bench during an altercation with the Buffalo Sabres in the pre-season.
There was much less turnover on the Canadiens roster from a year ago. Daniel Briere was signed, and will take over Michael Ryder’s role of secondary offense, and George Parros arrived from Florida via trade. Both are known for their hands, but Briere’s are silky smooth, while Parros uses his knuckles to keep opposing player in line. Expect him to drop the mitts with Leafs enforcer Colton Orr at some point tonight.
The Montreal Canadiens will line up with a roster that looks like this tonight:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Briere
Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Moen – Prust – Parros
Gorges – Subban
Markov – Diaz
Bouillon – Tinordi
With Alexei Emelin, and newcomer Douglas Murray out with injuries on defense, Jarred Tinordi will suit up for the Canadiens tonight, and Nathan Beaulieu was recalled from the AHL. Tinordi made the team out due to an incredible pre-season, but looks like he will be sharing time with fellow first rounder Beaulieu while the veterans recover.
The intensity level always seems to climb when these two historic rivals meet, and with this being the season opener, fireworks are bound to fly in the form of some rough and tumble play.
The Maple Leafs led the season series a year ago, winning three out of five matches between the two teams during the shortened 2013 season.
It promises to be a very exciting start to the season for the Montreal Canadiens, who are looking to prove that last year’s regular season was no fluke.