After what I imagine was a few off-seasons of whining by the ottawa senators the league changed the schedule to give the team 41 home games. Previously, to assuage the beancounters at Hockey Night in Canada the Leafs and senators met almost exclusively on Saturday nights. Each year I'd make the trip down the 401/416 with thousands of Leaf fans. The Leafs, as they do in many arenas within driving distance, enjoyed the raucous crowd and senators fans enjoyed being able to quench their obsession with the Leafs and their fans face-to-face. Four playoff eliminations and a little sister complex will do that to a fanbase.
Unfortunately, this year is the only Saturday game in ottawa and of course they picked Easter weekend to ensure that the saintly Leaf fans were unable to travel. Even though there will only be local Leaf fans in the building they'll still be louder than sensnation who will quietly express their discontent at their captain being booed with sneers of derision and snarky asides all the while being careful that the Leaf fans don't notice.
Anyway, tonight's game is more than an opportunity for the Leafs to guarantee themselves at least split honours in the Battle of Ontario. With Philadelphia passing the Bruins there is a new prey for the buds to hunt and they wear teddy bears on their shoulders. The Bruins play their nemesis Montreal who is looking to lay a Pittsburgh-like 8-0 beating on the beantowners in the season series. If the Leafs do their part and Montreal does the Auld Enemy a favour the Leafs could end the night just three points behind the Bruins with two games against them to come. That would probably improve their odds of making the playoffs above 3.2%.
Antro and Carlo are all out but just like in the good old days (read: The Quinn Era) the Marlies are working their tails off and helping the Leafs overcome a few huge absences. The huge news is that The King of Kings could arise a day early as the Leafs' Captain felt some progress with his groin injury. Scotiabank Place has not been a happy hunting ground for the Leafs but so much of this recent run has gone against conventional wisdom. Maybe we're in for at least one more surprise. Jaredoflondon has a great prediction that plays on Gerber's Vader-like mask:
Leafs - 4
Sens - 1
Darth Gerber, meet Vesa Skywalker
The Force is strong with these Leafs.
Go Leafs Go!