Maple Leafs at Canadiens
The Toronto Maple Leafs provided the biggest post-lockout surprise when they relieved Brian Burke of his duties as the team’s president and general manager. Dave Nonis, previously an assistant to Burke, will take over the team’s GM duties while Randy Carlyle will remain as head coach with a chance to turn Toronto’s awful team defense around. Carlyle will get his first chance on Saturday when the Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens begin this season with a new general manager of their own - as well as new head coach - after finishing at the bottom of the Northeast Division. Michel Therrien joins the team for a second stint as head coach, hired by new general manager Marc Bergevin. Montreal’s nightmare season led to its highest draft selection in three decades with third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk, who will start the season on the second line with the hopes of bolstering its weak offense.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBC
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (2011-12: 35-37-10, 4th Northeast Division): While firing Burke made plenty of noise in the media, it didn’t solve any of Toronto’s fundamental issues on the ice - starting with their goaltending. James Reimer never looked the same after suffering a concussion last season and backup Ben Scrivens provides little comfort for a team that has allowed at least 250 goals in each of the last seven seasons. Phil Kessel reached career highs last season with 37 goals and 82 points, as did Joffery Lupul (67 points).
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (2011-12: 31-35-16, 5th Northeast Division): Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty led the Canadiens in scoring last season with 35 and 33 goals, respectively, but no one else on the team finished with more than 20. Goaltender Carey Price had a solid season despite the team in front of him, posting a .916 save percentage in 65 games. David Desharnais was a revelation last season with 60 points and is expected to continue that pace centering one of Montreal’s top lines.
1. The Maple Leafs and Canadiens have opened the season against each other in each of the last three seasons. Toronto has won two of those games (one of which was in overtime).
2. D P.K. Subban is still negotiating a new contract with Montreal and will not be on the team’s opening-night roster.
3. Nazem Kadri, who was a 2009 first-round pick, scored a hat trick in an intra-squad game during Leafs training camp and is on the team’s opening-night roster.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)