We’re getting close to the end of the NHL regular season, and the postseason scenarios are rapidly taking shape. Teams are clinching spots, the death watches have begun, and fans of playoff-bound teams are already looking ahead to possible first-round matchups.
But of all the potential pairings, one looms above the rest: the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Montreal Canadiens.
According to Sports Club Stats, a Leafs-Habs pairing is the most likely first-round series in the league right now, at just slightly better than a 50 percent chance. Is that enough to call it a sure thing? Not at all. Is it enough to prematurely crank up the hype machine? Oh, baby.
Here are 10 things you need to know about a potential playoff meeting between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens:
It’s the greatest rivalry in NHL history.
Not necessarily the greatest rivalry of today — you could make a good case for Boston-Montreal or Pittsburgh-Philadelphia. And not the greatest rivalry of our generation, thanks to these guys.
But with all due respect to those teams and others, nothing can match the history of the league’s oldest rivalry. The two teams have combined for more than 30 Stanley Cups, including 13 of 14 between 1956 and 1969, and each have more than 50 players in the Hall of Fame.
And yes, this is the part where you point out that all that happened decades ago and doesn’t matter much today. To which the hockey world responds: Pull your pants up, you insufferable brat. If you’re a hockey fan, especially a Canadian one, this is the rivalry your grandparents’ generation grew up with and passed down. No matter where you are or what team you cheer for, the history of the Maple Leafs and Canadiens is a big part of why you’re a fan.