Usually it would be but, when both teams are floundering in the NHL standings, things were a little different last night.
Still, the game was entertaining for fans with goals, strange plays, a fight and some great saves. Mostly by Carey Price who turned aside 39 of 42 shots thrown his way, including 17 in the third period.
But both teams came out of the gate with high intensity, with Montreal folding over the back half of the game. Toronto just wanted it more and, that one-goal lead just wasn't going to standup for the Habs.
Mikhail Grabovski took things over in the third, potting two and dropping the Habs in regulation.
At the end of the day, the win was an important one for the Leafs who, by winning in coach Randy Carlyle's debut, kept ground on the eighth and final playoff spot.
For the Habs? Operation Fail for Nail is in full effect.
Final score: Leafs 3 - Habs 1
Gotta love Staubitz
From his first shift you could see that newly acquire Habs tough guy, Brad Staubitz, was just looking for a fight.
Every time he was on the ice he was hitting every Leaf he could, trying to provoke something. It really looked like he was just waiting for someone to challenge him.
Fortunately for Staubitz, as Mike Brown obliged after the former put his shoulder into Dion Phaneuf. And man was that a fight!
Both players, clearly looking to make impressions on their coaches and teammates, had a seriously intense fight.
Here's the vid:
The Leafs are a team who, under GM Brian Burke, aspire to be tough as nails. The Habs are a team who has gotten considerably tougher over the last 30 days. So which players were at the opening faceoff?
Mikhail Grabovski versus David Desharnais. Truculent indeed.
Poor Tomas Plekanc
Seriously, what did he do to Coach Cunneyworth? Run over his dog?
Whatever it is, it is clear that RC is using Plek as his third center. Moreover, flanked by Ryan White and Brad Staubitz, as the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs said on Twitter, he is clearly not being put in a position to succeed.
Last night, Plekanec got 17:50 of ice time with a scant 32 seconds on the powerplay.
Strange numbers for the player who has been the Habs point leader the last two seasons.
Who knows what the real reason is for Plek's diminishd role, but with speculation that Pierre Gauthier is no longer running the team, and others that say the GM is pushing coaching decisions, this thing is a mess, top to bottom.
Let's hope TSN 990's Tony Marinaro is right, when he says that every will be sorted out this summer. Because right now things are decidedly off.
During the press conference announcing his hiring as head coach of the Leafs, Randy Carlyle said that there was a lot of tension surrounding the team.
And you could see it on the ice last night, at least in the first period.
Jonas Gustavsson's early jitters aside, you could see that the Leafs were gripping their sticks tightly. And, to their credit, the Habs seemed to smell blood, taking the play to the tentative Leafs over the first 20 minutes of play.
Toronto really looked like a team who was afraid to lose, rather than playing to win.
Sounds like the Habs under Jacques Martin!
A sad state of affairs
Let's face it Habs and Leafs fans, your teams suck. Badly.
No, seriously. I mean these are the two biggest hockey markets in the NHL and both teams are in danger of missing the playoffs.
Well the Habs are unmistakably out, but the Leafs still have a chance. But a chance at what? A first round exit?
The fact is that neither team has been anything better than mediocre for the last decade, and the NHL is the worse for it. This league needs the Habs and the Leafs to, well, not suck.
Mediocrity is not enough. Just squeaking into the playoffs is not enough.
These teams need to battle each other for the Northeast crown and face each other in the conference finals. That is the kind of success I am talking about. That both fanbases have accepted such tepid performances for so long, just shows how much they love their teams.
Supporting a terrible on-ice product, while paying for overpriced tickets, jerseys, and other memorabilia? Wow, ownership has it too good.
Stat of the night - The loss was Carey Price's league worst 25th of the season. But that's not the brutal part. Montreal has scored one or less goals in 17 of those 25 losses.
Ya, and some people actually blame Price for the Habs poor showing this year.
Question of the night - Nothing much matters anymore for the Habs but, for the Leafs, the question has to be, will they make the playoffs under their new coach?
Up Next - The Habs now set out on a four-game road trip, staring on Tuesday in Calgary where they face recently trade sniper, Michael Cammalleri. With Montreal all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the best they can hope for is to play spoiler to the Flames.
Yep, pretty dismal out there in Habland. But look on the bright side, Habs addicts, there's only 16 games left!
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a regular contributor to the Sunday Shinny segment of The Franchise weekend morning show, on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/
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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)