The Toronto Maple Leafs have two games this week before completing the 2021 regular season, but with the Winnipeg Jets winning over Vancouver on Tuesday, the games remaining have no consequence as the Leafs now know for certain that their opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be the Montreal Canadiens.
The Jets 5-0 win over the Canucks clinched third place in the North Division and their first round match with Edmonton, their archrival from the old Smythe Division, while also locking in place the first meeting between the two Original Sixers for the first time in more than four decades.
Toronto matched up against the Habs in consecutive years; the 1978 Semi-Final and 1979 Quarter-Final, both in which the Leafs were swept in four straight by Montreal clubs that went on to win the Stanley Cup. The last Toronto victory over Montreal was their last Cup victory in 1967 (which the Leafs won 4-2), but while the history is interesting, it may not mean much for players who weren’t even born when the two clubs faced each other last.
"It's Leafs vs. Habs, so it's everything you want in a playoff series. It's exciting for us, we feel good against them. We've played them a fair amount of times recently, so we've got a good feeling there," Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott said on Wednesday. "We've had some good battles this year, which I think (is) gonna add to the fire. Even if you didn't watch a game this season, the Leafs - Habs rivalry was is always kind of there in the back of your mind, so it's gonna be huge just seeing those jerseys play against each other."
The Leafs take on the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday and the main focus of the game will be to get through the game without anyone getting injured and getting players who have been out some ice time.
GM Kyle Dubas and Asst. GM Brandon Pridham performed some cap contortions on Tuesday to activate goalie Frederik Andersen off of LTIR. Winger Zach Hyman and defenseman Zach Bogosian were moved to LTIR and defenseman Rasmus Sandin was shifted to the taxi squad.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that Andersen will play vs. Ottawa and Jack Campbell will start the final game in Winnipeg on Friday. Winger Nick Foligno will play after missing two games with an unspecified injury and Justin Holl will be in the lineup after missing some practice time for maintenance.
On the ex-Leafs front, winger Alexander Barabanov has found a home in San Jose. Barabanov had one assist playing fourth line minutes with the Leafs in 13 games and was traded on deadline day to the Sharks for Antti Suomela, but with increased playing time, the 26-year-old winger has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in eight games with the Sharks.
On Wednesday, the pending UFA signed a one-year, $1 million contract extension with San Jose.
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