The Montreal Canadiens travelled to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs in a classic Hockey Night in Canada matchup.
It was the first time newly arrived Leaf Ryan O’Reilly laced up his skates for the Leafs, joining the team in what can only be described as a great trade for Toronto.
Montreal had won the first two meetings between the two clubs but was outclassed significantly in the third matchup, losing 5-1 thanks to a pair of goals from Michael Bunting and a rather lacklustre performance from a defensive standpoint by the road team.
Power forward Josh Anderson opened the score in the second period thanks to a little bit of anticipation and a lot of hand-eye coordination.
The goal was his 16th over the year, but more importantly, his 13th of his career against the Maple Leafs.
The interest on the NHL trade market for Anderson remains high according to most hockey insiders, but if Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton are honestly considering keeping him, his play in the second half of the season has provided ample evidence he may be worth hanging onto.
A stick tap goes out to Mike Matheson, and not just because he earned an assist on the play. Matheson’s hockey IQ was on full display shortly before the goal, allowing the Canadiens to exit their own zone with control of the puck.
It’s hard to exaggerate the impact Matheson makes on this team, especially when you consider he facilitates the Canadiens’ transition game, one of the few players on the roster with the ability to do so.
Josh Anderson tips Mike Matheson's shot home and the Canadiens strike first! 🥶 pic.twitter.com/dl1H1rVQW2
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 19, 2023
It would be easy to blame Jake Allen for the loss, and we all know there’s a clear discrepancy in talent between both rosters, but it’s still rather concerning when the Canadiens allow almost dozen high-danger chances in the first period.
The top line of Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Nick Suzuki and Anderson was on the ice for five high-danger chances against, but it would be unfair to pin the defensive woes on just one line.
That was fowl!! 🦆 pic.twitter.com/EtDDBtIJIu
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 19, 2023
The fourth line was outshot significantly, controlling just 36 percent (4-7) of the shots while they were on the ice, resulting in a paltry 36 percent expected goals for percentage.
In total, the Habs were outchanced significantly, creating just eight quality chances at 5v5 while allowing the Maple Leafs to take 18 shots from high-danger areas.
The only line that managed to outshoot their opponents (69%) was the third line, powered by Jonathan Drouin, who enjoyed yet another solid game with seven shots on net.
With the recent three-game winning streak quickly forgotten, it’s a good time to remind Canadiens fans that the best is yet to come for the team, at least in the long term.
The losses against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Maple Leafs were just the start of their difficult final stretch of the season and should go a long way in reassuring fans that were worried the Canadiens would go on a late-season run and destroy their chances of picking an elite forward this summer.
The Canadiens are back in action on Tuesday heading to New Jersey to face the Devils. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM ET.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.