Winners of six consecutive games, the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs will look to extend their hot streak against the slumping Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Leafs are 9-0-1 over their last 10 games and are one victory away from matching the franchise’s longest winning streak since an eight-game run during the 2003-04 season.
The last-place Ottawa Senators threatened to spoil Toronto’s fun last Saturday, but the Leafs held on for a 6-5 victory thanks to another huge performance from Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The star forwards each had four points — Matthews had a hat trick and an assist, and Marner collected a goal and three assists.
Matthews has scored in four straight games and has 16 points (10 goals, six assists) over his last nine games. Marner isn’t far behind that offensive pace, with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) over his last nine games.
Even with the team on such a roll, coach Sheldon Keefe juggled his lines. Alex Galchenyuk collected two assists after being promoted to the top line alongside Matthews and Marner.
“I think it took a little bit of time for the Matthews group, in particular for Galchenyuk to sort of find his place on that line,” Keefe said. “Obviously they scored the two goals in the first period, but I thought that was, for the most part, Auston and Mitch connecting.
“I thought Galchenyuk kind of found his place as the game went on.”
Jack Campbell only stopped 27 of 32 Ottawa shots, though the Leafs goaltender did enough to make some NHL history. Campbell improved his record to 11-0-0, setting a new league mark for consecutive goalie victories to start a season.
Since the Maple Leafs also play on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames, Campbell and backup Michael Hutchinson figure to split the back-to-back starts. In the wake of Campbell’s somewhat shaky Saturday outing, Keefe could opt to give him more rest by starting Hutchinson against the Canadiens.
The goaltending situation is much more of a concern in Montreal, as Carey Price (upper-body injury) is still questionable after missing the team’s last three games. Jake Allen has started all three contests and posted an 0-3-0 record with an .867 save percentage.
Allen has won just once (1-5-4) in his last 10 starts, but he might still be the choice on Monday if Price is still unavailable. The interim backup goalie is 21-year-old Cayden Primeau, who has played just two career NHL games.
Allen allowed five goals on 25 shots in Saturday’s 5-0 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, though goaltending was far from Montreal’s only issue. The Canadiens recorded their second-lowest shot total (19) of the season. After 30 scoreless minutes, Winnipeg scored five times in the final 30 minutes of play.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Montreal forward Jake Evans said, describing Saturday’s loss as “a huge wake-up call.”
“We can’t win on skill, we can’t win on playing a run-and-gun game with some of these teams,” Evans said. “We’re a team that’s built on depth, and when everyone’s going, I think we’re an unbelievable team. So, we’ve got to change our way pretty quickly here.”
First-place Toronto sits 16 points ahead of fourth-place Montreal in the North Division standings. The Leafs are 4-1-0 against the Canadiens this season, including a 3-2 victory over the Habs last Wednesday.
–Field Level Media