Someone forgot to mention to rookie Montreal forward Ryan Poehling it was a nothing game before he put on one of the most impressive NHL debuts in history, not only notching a hat trick but added the shootout winner, defeating the Maple Leafs 6-5 at the Bell Centre Saturday. The St. Cloud State grad’s performance had blue and white fans reminiscing about his fellow American, Auston Matthews 4-goal opening game, 3-seasons ago.
Poehling signed a 3-year entry level contract last Sunday and became the 5th player in Canadiens history to score at least two goals in his NHL debut, John Ferguson was the last in 1963 and Alex Smart the last to record the trick in 1943.
Despite the fact it had no playoff implications for either team after the Habs were eliminated Friday evening and the Leafs first round opponent is set you’d never know it by the energetic crowd in the building. Always one of the liveliest stops in the league, a Toronto/Montreal match-up raises the noise level a few decibels.
Toronto sat four regular defense-men yet kept number one goalie Frederik Andersen in goal and a couple goalmouth crashes must have had management holding its breath. The large presence of visiting Maple Leafs fans was sure on edge all evening.
It seemed only fitting this one would end in extra time after the two clubs started the season a way back in October with Toronto victorious after a Matthews OT winner.
Mike Babcock with all the regular starting forwards in the lineup did mange the ice time of key players with fourth line skaters receiving more ice time than usual.
These are games that can put years on fans lives in the regard players maybe hold back just a tad yet its times in similar instances freaky accidents or injuries occur. Outside of a couple bang ups around the goal crease the Leafs exited unscathed.
For the most part the Canadien’s players were trying to leave lasting impression while the Toronto skaters were just trying to stay sharp.
The 5-minute OT was worth the price of admission.
The Leafs will have to be a lot better if they intend to be slipping skates on their feet rather than golf spikes in 10 days or so. The key to the success of any team in the post season starts in net and Andersen didn’t have a particularly strong outing in the season finale. Not what you like to see and he simply has to raise the level of his play. Period.
With the warm-up to compete for the main prize 82-games in the rear view mirror, the Leafs have a few days to reflect, focus, commit, be all-in or re-energize anyway they can to have any chance to defeat the playoff built Boston Bruins.
All the talking, analyzing and strategizing has been dissected to the ninth decimal place; its accountability time and that is all on the shoulders of the players.