North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Leafs-Habs Rivalry is dead

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‘The Toronto/Montreal rivalry is dead … the Maple Leafs have killed it”
– Ken Dryden, The Game

Well, maybe he’s right.

For all the hype and the excitement that Saturday’s game may have around it – it all depends on who wins and who loses tonight and tomorrow – this game has as little to do with the famous Toronto vs Montreal rivalry as it does any two teams playing for a spot.

Toronto this year keeps reminding me of New Jersey, circa 1988. They’re a team that’s playing well above its head, is winning games they shouldn’t be – and is losing games they shouldn’t be, either. Oddly like the Devils that year, the Leafs are a team that only has a couple scoring threats. The Devils had Pat Verbeek and Kirk Muller, the Leafs have Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker.

The 1988 version of the Devils was a team that was in the same situation that Toronto was in. While they had a lackluster year, towards the end of the season they made a run for the playoffs that went right down to a climatic game in Chicago that they had to win; a tie wasn’t enough.

And they did win, too, in overtime. From there the Devils had a wildly successful playoff run, upsetting the Islanders in six games and the Capitals in seven, before they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

Too many times this year the Leafs have choked away leads, be it against Buffalo or Pittsburgh. They’re a team that is winning mostly because Andrew Raycroft, and their fans are quick to vilify him.

When the Leafs work – I’m not sure if play is appropriate here – a goalie as often as they have Raycroft, it’s safe to assume that it’d wear him down. Raycroft has never lost this many games in one season, but he has never won this many either. His minutes in net is more then double what it was last year and his save % is under .900.

And most of the Leafs fans I know don’t like him. They have the real deal, Justin Pogge, waiting in the wings. Raycroft, even if he gets them into the playoffs, is still a stopgap. He’s the bridge between Belfour and Pogge, like how Steve Penny was between Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy.

This is why Felix Potvin left Toronto. This is why Toronto won’t win the Cup this year.

If Toronto wins against Montreal, they may end up with the #8 seed. From there they’d face Buffalo. Then maybe the Sens, or maybe the Penguins. Perhaps the Rangers.

Either way, these are teams that are much better then Montreal is right now.

So yes, this is a big game.

But the rivalry is dead.

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Written by M.

April 5, 2007 at 10:36 am

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