It took 42 years, but the Leafs and their fans have the only playoff game they’ve been waiting for in more than four decades.
This dream game takes place between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, which became a certainty Tuesday night after the Winnipeg Jets clinched third place in the North Division with a 5-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Montreal nabbed last place in the NHL playoffs with a point in an overtime loss to Edmonton on Monday. Winnipeg’s victory on Tuesday set up the playoff grid in the North Division, with the lead Leafs facing fourth place against the Canadiens and the third place Jets taking on the second place Oilers.
Playoff dates for the first round have yet to be set, but NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly has targeted May 19-20.
The Leafs and Canadiens are likely to open their doors on Thursday 20. Assuming the first-round playoff format is built around a game day, then a day off scenario, that would place both teams in the first row on Saturday nights during Hockey Night in Canada for the second game of the series.
Toronto last faced Montreal in a playoff scenario when the Canadiens were the league’s dominant team in the late 1970s.
The two teams met in 1978 and 1979, with Montreal sweeping both series.
Former Leaf Darryl Sittler, who was the team captain in those playoff games against Montreal, recalled that the Canadiens were just too deep a team in a playoff series.
Montreal won the Stanley Cup in 1979, one of its six Stanley Cup victories in the 1970s.
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