Montreal and Toronto’s Rivalry Makes a Muted Return to the Playoffs

A Montreal team featuring future Hall of Famers like Dryden, Savard, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Bob Gainey, Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson dispatched the Leafs in 4 video games for the second year in a row on the method to a 4th straight title.
Toronto didnt go down without a battle, taking the last two games to overtime.
” The sad part was we believed we were close to the Canadiens,” McDonald said. “We had actually beaten the Islanders the year prior to. And although the Habs had actually beaten us in four directly the year prior to in 1978, you think youre just a player or 2 away.”.
He added: “It reminded me of the Rangers-Islanders competition or Calgary-Edmonton years later on,” said McDonald, who later played for Calgary. “At that time it was most likely the very best rivalry in hockey, specifically because Montreal had actually won numerous Cups, and Toronto was 2nd.”.
Because that series, Montreal won 2 more Cups, in 1986 and 1993, while Toronto has the longest active dry spell in the N.H.L. at 53 years, just one except the gap the Rangers endured before winning all of it in 1994.

” Montreal had the Worlds Fair, Expo 67, that year and they were going to have the Stanley Cup parade there,” Stellick said. “They had the Montreal Expos. They had the Olympics in 1976. That was the place to be.”
The Canadiens-Leafs competition cooled after 1967 when the league broadened, adding 6 teams, and in the early 1970s, Boston supplanted Toronto as Montreals most significant rival.
” Toronto was a huge draw, but for us the huge competition was Boston,” Serge Savard, the Hall of Fame former Canadiens defenseman, stated in an interview. “There were a lot of Boston fans in Montreal.”
Still, Toronto and Montreal had their battles in the 1970s, particularly because last playoff meeting in 1979.
The Leafs were good, but reduced by the meddling of team owner Harold Ballard, who fired and rehired head coach Roger Neilson in a three-day daytime drama leading up the postseason. “It was a quite strange time,” Sittler stated in an interview. “My job was to play hockey and you didnt require those interruptions.”
In contrast, the Canadiens had actually won three successive titles, their last fantastic dynasty, having dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976 and the Bruins twice.

However, the atmosphere will be muted for the 2 wild fan bases, who were accustomed to flooding the streets adorned with face paint, flags and jerseys before the Leafs-Canadiens championship game.
” You strolled into Maple Leaf Gardens or the Forum in Montreal hours before the game and fans were out on the street and prepared to go,” Lanny McDonald, a Hall of Famer who began his profession with Toronto in 1973, stated in an interview. “Thats the magic of a rivalry, especially when its playoff hockey.”
Darryl Sittler, one of the most popular players in Leafs history, added: “Its a shame that in a series like this, fans in both cities cant see it live.”
The Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, who matured in the Toronto area and won 6 Stanley Cups with Montreal in the 1970s, sees the rivalry as one of cities and of cultures.
Montreal is still understood for its fashion and food, style and intimate quaintness, while varied Toronto is known for its brashness, flashy skyline and economic clout. Both fan bases claim they live in hockeys capital.

” Same fans, same degree of commitment, very same sort of history, very same love, exact same needs,” Dryden as soon as said in a television interview. “If you liked one place you would like the other. Theres absolutely nothing like winning in among these environments.”

They had actually lost only 29 regular-season games in those three years, as the group was at what Scotty Bowman, the coach at the time, called its “peak.”.
” It was such an exciting time,” Bowman stated in a telephone interview. “The pressure was there, however it stimulated the gamers to play at their best.”.

TORONTO– Canadas two most populated cities, Montreal and Toronto, are separated by 335 miles and by language, culture and politics. But hockey has actually constantly pulled them together, other than at playoff time.
The Canadiens and the Maple Leafs have actually played in 15 N.H.L. postseason series returning to 1918 and five times in the Stanley Cup finals, however not considering that 1979.
They lastly met again Thursday in the opening round of the playoffs in Toronto. The Canadiens won the video game 2-1, a muted affair that was spoiled by a collision that saw the Leafs captain John Tavares leave the ice on a stretcher and taken to the hospital.
Its a traditional rivalry, but one that has been inactive, a minimum of in the postseason, just to be remembered by those of a certain vintage.

A champion has actually long avoided both franchises, because 1993 for Montreal. Toronto last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, when the underdog Leafs disturbed the Canadiens, taking the shine off Montreals growing worldwide status.

In Montreal, expectations have fallen precipitously for Les Habitants, who squeezed into the postseason.
” Back in 1979, individuals in Montreal would have been dissatisfied if we didnt win,” Savard recalled. “In those days, they didnt ask before the season if we were going to make the playoffs. If we were going to win the Cup this year, they were asking. A really various time.”.
The history of the Leafs and Canadiens still resonates with todays players.
Montreal goaltender Jake Allen, who played junior hockey in Quebec, stated its “an unique sensation” to play Toronto in the postseason. Its going to be enjoyable.
Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott informed reporters hes looking forward to the modern-day renewal of an old competition.
” Its the Leafs versus the Habs, so its whatever you desire in a playoff series,” Dermott stated. “Even if you didnt watch a video game this season, the Leaf-Habs competition is always in the back of your mind. Its going to be substantial.”.

Obviously, geographical competitions are special because they are rare in the playoffs. The Rangers and Islanders, for instance, havent satisfied in the playoffs considering that 1994.
” I d say this rivalry advises me more of the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers,” stated Gord Stellick, who was an executive assistant with the Leafs in 1979 and later on became the clubs basic manager.
The Canadiens have won eight of the 15 series and hold a commanding 24-13 lead in Stanley Cup championships. This year, theyll be an underdog No. 4 seed versus Toronto, the champ of the all-Canadian North Division.
Pandemic travel limitations in Canada forced the N.H.L. to straighten its 31 teams and form a department with all seven Canadian groups. Toronto went 7-2-1 versus Montreal during the regular season, relatively integrated in the image of the Flying Frenchmen of Montreal– with speed and skill led by Auston Matthews, the leagues top objective scorer.
American cities are ahead in relieving restrictions and enabling fans inside hockey arenas– less than 5 percent of Canadians are totally vaccinated– the buildings in Canada will mostly stay dark. The Canadiens revealed Tuesday that theyll be enabled to confess 2,500 fans, about 12 percent of the Bell Centres capability, for any games after May 28 (Game 6 would be May 29, if needed). It would be the first video game in Canada with fans in presence this season.

They lastly satisfied once again Thursday in the opening round of the playoffs in Toronto.” Montreal had the Worlds Fair, Expo 67, that year and they were going to have the Stanley Cup parade there,” Stellick stated. “They had the Montreal Expos.” Back in 1979, people in Montreal would have been dissatisfied if we didnt win,” Savard recalled. Montreal goaltender Jake Allen, who played junior hockey in Quebec, stated its “an unique feeling” to play Toronto in the postseason.