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'Hockey Night in Canada': 5 Storylines

Disappointed Canadiens host Maple Leafs in season finale; Oilers visit Flames

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will end the regular season the way it began: against each other. The longtime rivals will open the final "Hockey Night in Canada" doubleheader of the season when they play at Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS, NHL.TV).

The Maple Leafs are headed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Canadiens came up just short of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

In the second game, the Calgary Flames will complete their best season in 30 years when they host the archrival Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, NHL.TV). The Flames also are tuning up for the start of the playoffs next week; the Oilers will miss the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons.

Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:

 

Disappointment reigns in Montreal

The Canadiens (43-30-8) are like the child in musical chairs who winds up without a seat after the music stops. The Columbus Blue Jackets' 3-2 shootout win against the New York Rangers eliminated the Canadiens from playoff contention one night after Montreal lost 2-1 at the Washington Capitals. Little was expected from the Canadiens this season, so remaining in contention for a wild-card berth until the next to last day of the season was a surprise. The Canadiens defeated the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday, but in the end, despite an improvement of 23 points from the 71 they earned last season, they will miss the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

 

Maple Leafs get ready for playoffs

Unlike their oldest rival, the Maple Leafs (46-28-7) know their season won't end when the siren sounds Saturday. Despite a bumpy final month, Toronto is headed to the playoffs for a third straight season, its longest run since qualifying six consecutive times from 1998-99 through 2003-04. Coach Mike Babcock may give a couple of his regulars the night off to let them get a little extra rest before Toronto begins a rematch with the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Maple Leafs, who lost to the Bruins in seven games last season, will be trying for their first series victory since defeating the Ottawa Senators in the first round in 2004.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot

 

Cole signing off

Bob Cole, who has been the soundtrack of hockey for generations of Canadians during the past half century, will call play-by-play for the final time in his career at Bell Centre. It's appropriate the 85-year-old's last broadcast will involve the Canadiens; the first NHL game he called (on CBC radio) was Montreal's double-overtime win against Boston in Game 6 of the 1969 Stanley Cup Semifinals, a series that ended with the only OT goal scored by Jean Beliveau. Cole spoke to NHL.com's Dave Stubbs about working his final game and the memories that come from 50 years behind the microphone.

 

Celebration time in Calgary

The Pacific Division champion Flames (50-24-7) have assured themselves home-ice advantage through the three rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. They won 50 games for the first time since 1988-89, a season that ended with the only Stanley Cup championship in their history, and have 107 points, up from 84 in 2017-18. One player who could reach a milestone is forward Johnny Gaudreau, who is two points from becoming the first Flames player to get 100 in a season since Theo Fleury in 1992-93. It will be a night to celebrate at Scotiabank Saddledome, especially with the Oilers (34-38-9) in town wrapping up another non-playoff season.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Flames clinch Western Conference

 

Draisaitl goes for 50

Edmonton center Leon Draisaitl has a chance to finish the season as a 50-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career. Draisaitl scored twice in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, giving him 49 for the season. "That's something special," Draisaitl said of getting 50. "I'm not sure if I'll ever get that chance again, so I'm going to try and make the most of it. I really appreciate the guys trying to set me up." Draisaitl is two behind Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals and fourth with 104 points (55 assists), 12 behind teammate Connor McDavid (116 points; 41 goals, 75 assists), who's second to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (126 points; 40 goals, 86 assists). Expect Draisaitl to get all the ice time he can handle and for his teammates to try to set him up as often as possible.

Video: SJS@EDM: Draisaitl pots his second tally of the night

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