MONTREAL — Ben Scrivens is about to get the biggest test of his young career.
All signs pointed to him getting the call in goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs prepared to open the season against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday. Scrivens took shots in the visiting net during the morning skate and was the first goaltender off the ice — two tell-tale indicators that the 26-year-old was about to be thrust on to one of the biggest stages in hockey.
However, neither he nor coach Randy Carlyle would confirm that to be the case. “Who told you he was starting?” said Carlyle. “I didn’t say that he was starting.” Added Scrivens: “What did Randy say? I’ll leave the speculation up to you guys.”
During training camp, Carlyle labelled the decision on goaltenders the toughest he had to make. While James Reimer was largely seen as the incumbent No. 1, Scrivens is in mid-season form after having played — and played well — for the Toronto Marlies during the lockout.
The cerebral goaltender appeared in 12 games for the Maple Leafs last season, including one at the Bell Centre, and acknowledged that he’s still getting used to the spotlight that comes with it. However, he believes that bit of NHL experience and the chance to play for the Calder Cup in the spring has made him better.
“You’re never comfortable going into a hostile environment — you can only be as comfortable as possible,” said Scrivens. “I think I’m getting closer and closer to that. Maybe you’ve got some nerves going in. James has played a bunch of games in this building as well.
“Anyone who comes in here, if they’re playing (in goal), they’re going to have weather the storm early because the crowd will be loud and boisterous.”
Goaltending promises to be a hot topic around the Leafs all season and Carlyle plans to keep everyone guessing. The veteran coach has never told reporters which goaltender would start a game during his entire career, calling it a superstition.
One thing remains clear: If the Leafs are going to have any success this season, the goaltenders will have to play a big role in it.
“No goalie in this league is going to play all 48 games,” said Scrivens. “Whoever is in has to give the team a chance. That’s the burden that falls on James and I’s shoulders.”
A look at the Leafs in Game 1:
The Leafs are looking to a new leadership group to help a young team navigate its way through the condensed 48-game schedule.
Prior to Saturday’s morning skate, Carlyle informed forwards Joffrey Lupul and Clarke MacArthur that they would serve as alternate captains. Dion Phaneuf continues to wear the ‘C’ for the Leafs.
“It feels good, but at the same time the leadership is not going to come from three guys on our team,” said Lupul. “There’s other guys in this room with a lot of experience — McClement, Liles, guys like that — it’s going to come from everyone. But it’s an honour to wear (the ‘A’). I think as my career’s went on I’ve developed more and more leadership qualities.”
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Van Riemsdyk – Kadri – Komarov
Orr – McClement – Brown
Phaneuf – Kostka
Gunnarsson – Komisarek
Liles – Franson
Steckel, Fraser, Holzer.
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Cole
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gionta
Moen – Eller – Bourque
Prust – White – Armstrong
Markov – Emelin
Kaberle – Gorges
Bouillon – Diaz
Gallagher, Blunden, Weber
With an average age of 27.1, Toronto has the second-youngest roster in the NHL behind Columbus (26.9) … It’s the first time the Canadiens have opened a season at home since 1999 … Phil Kessel’s next goal will be his 100th as a Maple Leaf … Alex Galchenyuk, the 18-year-old centre drafted third overall in June, is expected to make his NHL debut … Colby Armstrong will also suit up in his first game for Montreal. He was bought out by the Leafs in the summer … It will be the 715th meeting all-time between Toronto and Montreal.
“I want to win this one badly.” — Colby Armstrong.
“With a shortened season there are going to be surprises and it’s up to us to be one of those surprises.” — Habs coach Michel Therrien.
“I’ve played in some big games, but I don’t think anything is going to compare to this. Already just this morning I’ve never had a pre-game skate like that. This building definitely has an aura about it. When you get out there, the atmosphere is unlike any other.” — veteran forward Jay McClement, prior to his debut for Toronto and first ever Habs-Leafs game.