The Top 10 Moments in the Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Rivalry
The NHL's greatest and oldest rivalry in Canada is between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
These two Original 6 clubs have combined for 37 Stanley Cup championships, and they have squared off in 15 playoff series, including five meetings in the Cup Final.
Much like New York and Boston, this rivalry extends beyond sports since Toronto and Montreal are the two largest cities in Canada and also have two different primary languages.
If the 2013 NHL season ended today, the Canadiens and Leafs would play each other in the first round of the playoffs, which would be their first postseason meeting since 1979. Now that both teams are playoff contenders again, expect this rivalry to become much more exciting and intense over the next few years.
Here are the 10 best moments of this epic rivalry, in no particular order.
1967 Stanley Cup Final: Leafs Pull Off a Memorable Upset
The Canadiens went into the 1967 Stanley Cup Final as the favorites since they were the two-time defending champions.
However, the Leafs would pull of a memorable upset to win their 13th championship (second-most all-time). Leafs captain George Armstrong lifted the Stanley Cup after his team ended the series with a 3-1 victory in Game 6.
This was the most recent and probably the final meeting between these teams in a Stanley Cup Final. NHL realignment moved the Leafs into the Northeast Division for the 1998-99 season, where they would join the Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators.
The Leafs have not been to a Cup Final since their triumph in 1967. The closest they came was in the 1992-93 season when Toronto lost to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Finals, which prevented the Canadiens and Leafs from playing in the Cup Final during the Stanley Cup's 100th anniversary season.
1960 Stanley Cup Final: Canadiens Sweep Leafs for Record 5th-Straight Title
The Montreal Canadiens won their record fifth-straight Stanley Cup in 1960 when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 in Game 4 to complete a dominating sweep. The victory helped Montreal finish the 1960 NHL playoffs with a perfect 8-0 record.
It was the second-consecutive season that the Canadiens defeated their Ontario rivals in the Cup Final, and they won eight of the nine games played in those two series.
The New York Islanders came close to matching the Canadiens' record in 1983-84, but they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in five games, which ended the Long Island club's four-year run of dominance. No team since the 1983 Islanders has won three or more Stanley Cups in a row.
1951 Stanley Cup Final: Leafs Defeat Canadiens in Overtime to Win the Series
Bill Barilko's goal in overtime of Game 5 of the 1951 Stanley Cup Final gave the Leafs a 3-2 victory for their seventh championship in team history. It was also Toronto's fourth title in five seasons.
The 1951 Cup Final is the only championship series in which every game was decided in overtime.
May 29, 1992: Legendary Coach Pat Burns Joins Leafs Soon After Leaving Canadiens
Many great players have worn both the Leafs and Canadiens sweaters in their NHL careers, and one coach who also knows what it's like to be on both sides of this historic rivalry was Pat Burns.
Burns guided the Canadiens to the 1989 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Calgary Flames in six games. Four years later, he would become the head coach of the Leafs after leading Montreal to the 1991-92 Adams Division title.
He would leave the Canadiens organization on May 29, 1992, and it did not take him long to find a new head coaching job. Just a few hours later, Toronto made him its next head coach to replace Tom Watt.
Burns led the 1992-93 Leafs on a remarkable playoff run which ended in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Final. Shortly after that season, Burns won the second Jack Adams Award of his career as coach of the year.
November 29, 1924: Montreal Forum Opens with Canadiens vs. St. Pats
The old Montreal Forum, like the Boston Garden, was one of the finest places to watch a hockey game. It was full of character, history and played host to some of the most memorable moments that the NHL has ever seen.
The Forum opened on November 29, 1924 with a matchup between the Canadiens and the Toronto St. Pats, which was the franchise's name before Maple Leafs.
Montreal won the game 7-1 to begin a very successful era in Canadiens history.
1979 Quarterfinal: Canadiens Sweep Leafs in Most Recent Playoff Matchup
The 1979 NHL quarterfinals is the most recent playoff matchup between the Canadiens and Leafs. Montreal won the series in four games with a thrilling 5-4 victory in Game 4.
The Canadiens would go on to beat the rival Boston Bruins in a historic seven-game series and then defeated the New York Rangers in five games to win their fourth-straight Stanley Cup championship.
1964 NHL Semifinal: Leafs Defeat Canadiens in the Only Game 7 of the Rivalry
As I mentioned previously in this article, the Leafs and Canadiens have faced each other in the playoffs 15 times, but the only series to ever go seven games was the 1964 NHL semifinal.
After winning Game 6 3-0 to force a deciding seventh game, the Leafs won the series finale 3-1 to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season.
Toronto would go on to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to capture their third-straight championship.
1944 NHL Semifinal: Montreal's Maurice Richard Sets Playoff Record
Maurice Richard is arguably the greatest goal scorer in NHL history, which is one reason why the award given to the league's leading goal scorer each season is named the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
In Game 2 of the 1944 NHL semifinal, Richard gave one of the most impressive performances of all-time as he scored a playoff record five goals to help the Canadiens defeat the rival Leafs. Since the 1944 season, three players have matched Richard's record of five goals in one playoff game (Darryl Sittler, Reggie Leach and Mario Lemieux).
Montreal would win the series and move on to the Stanley Cup Final, where Richard helped the Canadiens defeat the Chicago Blackhawks to win the franchise's first championship since 1931.
April 7, 2007: Leafs Defeat Canadiens in High-Scoring Game
On the final day of the 2006-07 regular season, the Leafs needed a win to have a chance of earning a playoff spot for the first time since the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
In one of the most exciting games at the Air Canada Centre over the last decade, Toronto defeated Montreal 6-5 with third-period goals from Bryan McCabe and Kyle Wellwood that completed a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Despite the win, the Leafs were not able to make the playoffs because the New York Islanders finished one point ahead of them for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
April 5, 2008: Canadiens Go Into Eastern Conference Playoffs as Top Seed
When the Montreal Canadiens finished atop the Prince of Wales Conference in the 1988-89 regular season, very few hockey fans in Quebec would have predicted that this team was not going to win another regular season conference crown until 2007-08.
Montreal defeated the Leafs on the final day of the 2007-08 regular season to finish above the Pittsburgh Penguins with 104 points.
The Canadiens would beat the Bruins in seven games in the first round of the playoffs, but they were eliminated in the East semis by the Flyers in five games.
If the Canadiens are able to climb up the standings and challenge the Penguins for the top seed in the 2013 Eastern Conference playoffs, their matchup with the Leafs on the final day of the regular season would become extra special for both teams.