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Game Journal - Game 1: Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

3:00 PM: Leafs great Doug Gilmour will be taking over our Twitter account prior to tonight's game. Head over to and submit your questions using the hashtag #AskDougie.

Today from 5:30-6:00, #Leafs great Doug Gilmour will take over our Twitter account! #TMLtalk Submit your questions using #AskDougie.

— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 7, 2015

2:45 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Leafs and Canadiens.

Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 28 Boyes
23 Matthias - 42 Bozak - 19 Lupul
47 Komarov - 24 Holland - 33 Arcobello
26 Winnik - 16 Spaling - 15 Parenteau
2 Hunwick - 3 Phaneuf
51 Gardiner - 52 Marincin
44 Rielly - 36 Harrington
45 Bernier
34 Reimer

Montreal Canadiens
67 Pacioretty - 14 Plekanec - 11 Gallagher
81 Eller - 27 Galchenyuk - 13 Semin
15 Fleischmann - 51 Desharnais - 22 Weise
32 Flynn - 17 Mitchell - 21 Smith-Pelly
79 Markov - 76 Subban
74 Emelin - 26 Petry
28 Beaulieu - 77 Gilbert
31 Price
39 Condon

2:05 PM: Leafs TV also caught up with new additions P-A Parenteau and Brad Boyes as well as Nazem Kadri ahead of tonight's game. Check out what they had to say...
2:00 PM: Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk spoke to the media on Wednesday following the morning skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV:

On getting to the net:
That's part of my game. Getting to the net, getting to those dirty areas and making things happen there. It's funny how it works, you feel like you're getting good chances and the one that goes in for you goes off your feet. That's just the way it goes but we'll just keep sticking with it and go from there.

Is there much of a transition from centre to centre when you switch from last year?
Everyone is a little bit different out there but as far as what I want to bring to the table it's pretty similar. Use my speed, get to the net and make things happen around the net.

What goes through your mind ahead of the opener?
It's exciting, every year it's like Christmas morning. It's been a long summer, obviously for us too long, and you're excited to get going. We're ready to get back into it and we'll start with the live bullets today.

Mike said there would be pain when he was hired. Has there been pain?
I don't know the context to that so it's tough for me to answer that. We've worked hard, we've been paying attention to the things they want us to pay attention to as far as the details they want us to play with.

How much difference can a coach make?
It's a fresh start for everyone. He wasn't here last year or the last couple of years to see how things had went. Everyone kind of gets a clean slate. Now it's a new season, every new year there's lots of optimism and now we have to go out there on the ice and play like that.

How does this opening day differ from the past?
You always have that excitement but obviously there were lots of changes in the summer and there's a lot of excitement around our team in general. You try to feed off that, but it's always an exciting time of year in general.

1:30 PM: Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf offered his thoughts ahead of the team's home opener against Montreal. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV:

On the Toronto Blue Jays run to this point:
All the attention that they're getting is well deserved. They've played extremely well, they've had success so far. I wish them nothing but the best. I think it's great for the city of Toronto, you see the excitement, the fans have really been excited throughout there run. It's well deserved, credit to them and the attention is well deserved and I wish them nothing but the best.

Do you think this team will surprise some people?
We're going to keep trying to improve, day by day. Our training camp you could see with the amount of change that was put in with a new coaching staff, a full new system, I think it takes time. Every day we built a little more, we improved and that's what we want. That's what we've talked about, we want to continue to get better every day and we'll see where that can take us... I think that for our team what we're going to do is work extremely hard and be tough to play against and when you do that good things will happen.

What do you think of Mike's approach and the way he is coaching you guys?
I think he comes as advertised. He's very detailed, he's got a lot of structure. I said at the beginning of the year, from playing against him, his teams are very structured, it didn't matter who they had in their lineup. Whether there were injuries or problems or guys were tired or moved on, the played the same way. That is basically the biggest thing I've taken out of training camp with him. He puts the details in place, he's going to put structure in and we're going to put the work in. That's our job.

Accountability stands out on and off the ice, doesn't it?
You want to be accountable to the guys sitting next to you and across from you. It's about our team and that's what we're focused on. I'm excited, I really am excited about training camp that that's over and we're getting started for real. We put in a lot of work over the first three weeks of camp and now the real games start. As players that's what we live for. We play the game, we love the game and now we get to play it for real tonight.

Does this differ from the other opening nights you've been apart of?

Opening night is always special. Toronto, Montreal? I don't think it gets much better than that. Whether they're in our building or we're in theirs, there's energy, you can feel it. I know we're excited to get going as a group.

1:00 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media ahead of Wednesday's game. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV:

Do you think given there's not a lot of expectation you might fly under the radar and surprise people?
Not really, I think Montreal is playing Toronto and that speaks for itself. Expectations of the public, of the media, whatever, we've got 23 guys in the room, a coaching staff, a management team that expect us to compete every night. I've come to the rink every day of my life expecting to win and it's going to be no different this year.

Ken Hitchcock said you have this town exactly where you want it and he's not a member of the media.
Hitch ain't in town either. When they start asking me about St. Louis — it's good of Hitch to help me out, I appreciate it.

You've got lockers of Red Kelly, George Armstrong and Johnny Bower in the room this year. Why?
I think Original Six is special. When you got to hang around Gordie Howe, Mr. Lindsay and Alex Delvechhio for 10 years like I did and probably more Mr. Lindsay than anybody, you see what kind of role model he is and what kind of man he is, the tattoo he has on him, he makes the people around him better. When he has a chance to talk to your young people and be around them, I think he can have a huge impact. The integrity of those men was much greater than their ability to play and they made us all better so why wouldn't you have these guys involved?

How much difference can a coach make?
I have no idea. What I would tell you is this — everywhere I've gone, I've just tried to get better each and every day, be process oriented, love the guys and try to make them a good a player as they possibly can, make them accountable and make the organization proud of us. I like to be proud when I leave the rink. Nothing makes me more upset than lack of work ethic or lack of preparation. We're going to look after those two areas and then we're going to see where it takes us. I've been fortunate to coach lots of good players and have lots of good seasons and you never know going in. You have thoughts going in but you never know for sure. Let's see if we can't maximize the group. We excpect everybody — I want to be the best Mike Babcock I can be, I want Bernier to be the best Bernier he can be, I don't ask them to be anyone they're not, just the best they can be.

How does your club challenge Carey Price?
He's good, he's real good actually, he's soft too. He reads the game great. We've got to drive him deep and we've got to get second chances and be around their net. Montreal also, they box out real hard, they know what they've got there and they make it hard on you. Lots of scoring chances or in the scoring areas when you get those chances on Carey, it doesn't even look like scoring chances. That's the reality of the situation. He's a part of their team and it's important we get determined to outwork them and go get them.

Is it a benefit that you stayed in the division and know the opponent most nights?
I never thought much about it, that never weighed into anything here obviously. But, obviously I know the players. When you've been in the League as long as I have and watch as much hockey as I have, you know the players, you don't know the kids. You know the nuances of most guys and that helps you in your preparation. In saying that, I probably know Toronto the least of everybody, I just haven't watched them as much.

What did Nazem Kadri show you in that final pre-season game?
He as competitive, he was in good spots defensively and had speed through the neutral zone and he won some pucks. He wasn't a rush player, he didn't stand around and watch it and let someone else go get it. I thought in the last two games he's really been coming and we need him to be good. You look down the middle tonight and Montreal is good down the middle. We need to be able to execute and your centres are a big part of making that happen.

How has your support staff helped you get to this point?

Our medical science people are second to none, they're unbelievable actually. It might not show right away but it'll show over time, the way we're looking after our guys period is second to anything I've seen, period. It's been fantastic. I think it also takes those people time to have the impact. The summer is a huge time for you and we didn't have our guys in place until partway through the summer so they had an impact but not what they will next year. In the meantime they're doing good things. The thing I like about them is they're intelligent people with good ideas and they don't mind telling the coach the workload is too much or too little. They can help you out and those people have been excellent.

What did you learn about PK Subban in your time at the Olympics?
He's a classy, classy kid to say the least. He was a great teammate who made everyone better. Unlimited energy, he was vibrating 24/7. The most impressive thing PK Subban did when I was around is he brought his family onto the plane to meet me on the ride home. For a guy who never dressed for many games I was shocked by that. He was proud of his family and wanted to introduce you. I was proud to see the kind of kid he is. To see what he did the other day (his donation to a children's hospital) and follow it a little bit, was really, really, really impressive. He's a good kid and a good player and he's getting better every day and he's got a lot of energy and he's a lot of fun.

11:30 AM: The Maple Leafs kick off their 2015-16 regular season tonight when they play host to the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre. Puck drop is set for 7:00 pm.

The Leafs got off to a hot start in the pre-season but had trouble picking up results down the stretch, wrapping up with a 3-5-0 record. They'll look to build off strong performances displayed in the exhibition doubleheader against the Red Wings that wrapped up the pre-season.

The Canadiens also had an up-and-down showing in the pre-season. Montreal posted a 2-3-2 record in seven pre-season contests, which included a 1-1 mark against the Maple Leafs.

Stay tuned for updates on tonight's lineup, thoughts from the players and coaches, and more.

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