For the first time in 42 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens find themselves pinned against each other in a playoff series. That’s a long-ass time since these two bitter rivals have faced off in games that actually matter, though Leafs fans treated every meeting with the Habs this season as if it was Game 7. Sure, Montreal got spanked around in the season series against Toronto, losing seven of their ten head-to-head matchups. And yeah, the Canadiens might have crawled into the playoffs, limping into the dance with injuries up and down the roster while having won fewer games than the Calgary Flames, though Montreal still got in over them thanks to a ton of one-point overtime losses. But as a Habs fan, I couldn’t be less nervous about this series against the Leafs, winners of the North Division.
Why aren’t I worried about facing the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs, who have been the best Canadian team all year and finished the regular season collecting points in 9 of their last 10 games? The team with a goal differential that was +48 better than that of the Habs, whose most important player, Carey Price, hasn’t played an NHL game in a month due to a concussion (GFY, Alex Chiasson) and got scored on by a couple AHL players in his rehab assignment a few days ago? Why aren’t I concerned about the Habs when the Leafs are given a 75% chance to win this damn series?
I’m not stressed heading into this battle because of one thing and one thing only—there’s way more pressure on the Maple Leafs than there is on the Habs. If the Canadiens lose, it was expected. If the Leafs lose, there will be absolute anarchy.
Do the Leafs make it out of the first round this year?
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) May 14, 2021
The Maple Leafs are coming off one of their best seasons in club history, and have legimitate hopes of hoisting the Cup in July. The Habs? They’re just delaying their golf season. This series should be a tune-up for this Leafs team, which is why it would be hilarious for Habs fans and catastrophic for Torontonians if Montreal somehow pulled off a series win.
In my head, this series is already over. I’ve already gotten over the eventual suffering of the Leafs beating up on the Canadiens for the next week or so, and having to endure all of the verbal abuse from my friends when we lose. Twenty-three Sportsnet insiders said this series is over. But if SOMEHOW, the Habs can win this series there are gonna be riots all across Ontario. I know a few guys personally who would sacrifice a family member to see the Leafs win the Cup, and they have a fairly easy road to the conference finals with a cupcake first round matchup followed by the winner of Edmonton/Winnipeg. Leafs fans are already eyeing the end of the road, which is why shocking them in the first round and disrupting their best chance in decades to make a deep playoff run would give Canadiens fans bragging rights for eternity.
— theScore (@theScore) May 18, 2021
Listen, I know the Habs have no chance of beating Toronto four games out of seven. You could give the Habs ten tries and I bet you they still wouldn’t win 40% of the time. They didn’t in the regular season. Ask just about any Habs fan and they’ll tell you this club’s odds of winning even a couple of games in this series are slim to none. But if Montreal can somehow manage to take down the Leafs I can’t think of anything that would be more of a dagger to Toronto fans than that. Leafs Twitter would implode.
Marc Bergevin throwing the puck into his own net is what he's been doing as GM of the Montreal Canadiens. pic.twitter.com/PKV1GSdCgm
— Sergei (@berezin_goal) September 10, 2018
The Canadiens don’t even belong on the same ice as the Leafs. Our best players have been injured and they aren’t even that good to begin with. Our goalie is throwing temper tantrums for giving up goals in practice. Our front office is filled with clowns who seem to sabotage the Habs more than anything. On the other side? The Leafs have two of the top five point-getters in the league. Their top-three players account for over 40% of their salary cap. Even though their starting goalie has missed most of the season their backup has gone 17-3-2 in Freddie’s absence. Can you imagine if they get outscored by a bunch of scrubs in Habs jerseys?
Realistically, this series was probably over before it even started. The Maple Leafs are expected to come out of this sweat-free; not much can be gained out of rinsing a team you were supposed to rinse in the first place. Losing this series, however, would be a totally different story. That’s why the Leafs have far much more to lose than gain by playing the fourth-place Canadiens in their first round matchup.
I just want a good, fun series. One that stays close and won’t be completely embarrassing for the Habs. If they can make it far enough that Canadiens fans can attend a game at the Bell Centre for the first time in over a year then that’d be even better. But if they somehow win the series, that’d be a real shame for Leafs fans. You’d hate to see it.