59% chance Leafs, Canadiens meet in first round

Many fans would like to see the Maple Leafs matched up against the Montreal Canadiens in the first...

Many fans would like to see the Maple Leafs matched up against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

A first-round playoff matchup with the Montreal Canadiens?

Bring ’em on.

That’s the feeling of Maple Leafs defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, who spent 128 games with the Canadiens in four seasons from 2007-10.

“You talk about the playoffs and how much excitement there is and how it would be awesome, and you put Toronto and Montreal together in the playoffs, if it does happen, it would be a great series,” O’Byrne told reporters at the Leafs’ hotel on Monday morning.

“There is a lot of hatred between both teams. You can see it in the games — the chippiness, we play against each other so much. One of those games where you just get so heated, you saw it a week and a half ago on the Saturday (when the Leafs won 5-1 in Toronto), the physical play. It just seemed like the play was up a level. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the playoffs if we did play each other.”

Website sportsclubstats.com, which crunches numbers in professional and amateur sports leagues, figures there is a 59% chance the Leafs and Canadiens will meet in the first round, and a 25% chance of a Leafs-Boston Bruins series. The Leafs and Canadiens have not clashed in the post-season since 1979.

The Leafs are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points. The Canadiens are in fourth with 59 points. Both teams have three games remaining.

But Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk wasn’t ready to peer too far into the future.

“When you start looking too far ahead, that is when you fall into that trap of being a little complacent, so we don’t want to start looking at that,” van Riemsdyk said.

The Leafs had a complete day off on Sunday in Florida, arriving at 3:30 in the morning after beating the Senators 4-1 in Ottawa on Saturday, a victory that ensured a Toronto playoff berth for the first time since 2004. Many Leafs hit area golf courses on Sunday.

The players stayed off the ice again on Monday, instead participating in dryland training exercises in a parking lot adjacent to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Leafs will practise on Tuesday prior to their game against the Lightning on Wednesday night, and depart after that game for Sunrise, where they will square off with the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Both the Lightning and Panthers have been eliminated from the playoff race.

Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, who played in Ottawa after missing another three games with a hip ailment, said he intends to play in all of the Leafs’ remaining three games.


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