Hockey finally returned Tuesday after a more than four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic and even though it was an exhibition game, it was great to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens back on the ice.
Toronto skated to a 4-2 victory in the one and only tuneup game for each team before they launch into their respective best-of-5 Stanley Cup playoff qualifying series this coming weekend.
Here are five takeaways from the Leafs-Habs game at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
That was just plain weird: Toronto and Montreal have been arch-rivals since the National Hockey League’s early days, so it was incredibly weird to see the Canadiens’ bleu, blanc et rouge sweaters hanging in the Leafs’ dressing room. It will be a fact of life for Toronto, as well as the Edmonton Oilers, who will not be the home team in every game they play in their own rink.
This will take some time getting used to: We are going to need some time to adjust to the new game presentation, which features some unique TV camera angles, no fans in the stands, manufactured crowd noise after goals, scoring chances and big saves, and no chants of Go Leafs Go!
The Price is definitely right: Montreal star goalie Carey Price made a number of key saves throughout the game — a great sign because the Canadiens will need their best player to be the best player in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins if they have any hope of advancing to round 1 of the 16-team playoffs.
Do you Be-Leaf the hype?: Toronto’s line of captain John Tavares, Mitch Marner and rookie Ilya Mikheyev scored on their first shift of the game, 33 seconds after puck drop, and were dangerous in the offensive zone all night long.
If the Leafs’ top six — which also includes Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman — can control the flow of play, then Toronto will be well-positioned to enjoy some success this summer.
If anything, the resumption of the NHL season only whetted my appetite to watch wall-to-wall hockey games over the next two and a half months.
How many of those will involve the Maple Leafs remains to be seen.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.