The Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli was not a member of the Vancouver Canucks long last season, yet he apparently discovered plenty about their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and will try to expose more when the two teams meet Saturday for the third time in four days.
Toffoli has scored five goals in two consecutive games against the Canucks on Wednesday and Thursday. His hat trick on Wednesday was wasted in a shootout loss, but his two goals on Thursday put the Canadiens on track for a 7-3 victory.
If the matchup between members of the reconfigured North Division does not feel like a playoff series yet, it likely will when they take the ice Saturday, or at least by the time they play each other twice more at Montreal in a little more than a week.
The Canadiens have won three of five games this season, but they secured a point in each after falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime of their season opener, as well as falling in the shootout loss this week. They sit atop the division in the early going, while the Canucks sit near the bottom.
Toffoli was a member of the Los Angeles Kings for eight seasons before he was traded to the Canucks in February. He played just 10 regular-season games with Vancouver and then seven more in the playoffs when the Canucks advanced to the second round before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights.
He had eight goals and six assists in his 17 total games, making himself an efficient contributor, but that was nothing like the efficiency he has shown this week when he has delivered all five of his goals in the last two games, along with one of his two assists.
Being productive against the Canucks is nothing new for the 28-year-old. He has 18 career goals in 30 games against Vancouver, double his most goals scored against any other team.
"For whatever reason I enjoy coming in here (to Vancouver)," Toffoli said. "Obviously when fans are in the building it's good energy, but it's some good luck, I guess."
In a sign of just how opportunistic the Canadiens are right now, they had two short-handed goals Thursday on five Canucks' power plays, including one from Toffoli. They had just one goal on nine of their own power plays.
Bo Horvat has been just as productive for the Canucks this season. Entering Friday's games, Horvat and Toffoli were in a group of seven players leading the NHL with seven points. Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry was also on that list.
Horvat also has five goals on the season, with two goals in each of the last two games against the Canadiens. But the Canucks have lost four of their past five games with a defense that has given up an NHL-worst 28 goals (4.67 per game).
"We've got to figure it out within our dressing room and buy in," Horvat said. "It's a long year, we have another game against these guys, and we're going to try to win this miniseries."
Vancouver was without defensemen Alexander Edler (upper body) and Travis Hamonic (undisclosed) on Thursday after both were injured Wednesday.
--Field Level Media