Toronto Maple Leafs: Keys to Beating the Montreal Canadiens in the Season Opener

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIJanuary 18, 2013

EDMONTON, CANADA - FEBRUARY 15: James Reimer #34 of theToronto Maple Leafs  of the Edmonton Oilers on February 15, 2012 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Game on.

Saturday Jan. 19 marks the first day of the NHL's shortened 48-game season.

Thirteen games will take place throughout the opening day of the 2013 regular season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens may play the most anticipated game of the day—despite both teams expected to miss the postseason once again.

The two teams with the most history and culture in the sport will square off Saturday night in Montreal to open their respective seasons.

Here are Toronto's keys to victory against the Canadiens.


Take Advantage of Montreal's Defensive Core

This could be said to be a key for both teams.

For Toronto, it's a must.

The Leafs are a team that hasn't really struggled to score goals in the past and with questions still surrounding their own defensive unit, the offense will need to step up on Saturday night when the Leafs take the ice at the Bell Centre.

With P.K. Subban still holding out for a new contract, Andrei Markov playing his first NHL game in a long time and Tomas Kaberle not being the defenseman he once was, Montreal's defense is not exactly an intimidating prospect.

Toronto will need their top two lines to play a high-tempo kind of hockey game and to pepper Carey Price with shots.

Scoring three or four goals shouldn't be too much to ask, and the Leafs may need them to come away with a win.


Must be Able to Kill Penalties

As lackluster as the Habs' power play was in 2011-12, the Leafs' penalty killing was equally as bad.

With many players not having played professional hockey in quite some time, it wouldn't be surprising to see a fair amount of penalties called in the team's first game back.

If that were to be the case, Toronto cannot afford to cough up goals as often as they have in the past while they're a man short.

Hopefully the addition of a penalty-kill specialist in Jay McClement will help in that regard.


Goaltending Must be Sound


The Leafs will need whoever starts this game (most likely James Reimer) to step up and have a solid game.

I know Toronto's goaltending issues have been examined beyond belief over the past four or five years, but that doesn't mean it won't be a key in tomorrow night's opener against Montreal.

If James Reimer can return to being the netminder he was before he took an elbow to the head (which happened to come against this same Montreal team), Toronto should have a much easier time winning Saturday's contest.