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Toronto Maple Leafs game preview: Game one

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The Maple Leafs open the season against the Ottawa Senators, who are building their roster out of spite.

NHL: SEP 18 Preseason - Maple Leafs at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is it, the night of nights. For five long and gruelling months, we’ve been waiting for the Toronto Maple Leafs to begin their next season of hockey. Well, wait no more (actually you’ll have to wait a few hours). This is it. It’s opening night. The all new, Toronto Maple Leafs are here for you.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators
Game One
7:00PM - Scotiabank Arena
TV: Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360, TVA Sports
Radio: Sportsnet590, TSN1050
Stream: NHL.tv
Opponents: Silver Seven Sens

First, let’s set the tone.

The Maple Leafs made some big additions last season and over the summer that really changes the look of this opening night line up vs last year. Out are Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Josh Leivo, Connor Brown, Par Lindholm, Ron Hainsey, Garrett Sparks, Nikita Zaitsev, and Igor Ozhiganov. In are Alex Kerfoot, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie, Michael Hutchinson, Jason Spezza, Ilya Mikheyev, Rasmus Sandin, Cody Ceci, Dmytro Timashov, and Trevor Moore.

That is a lot of turnover.

Changes can be good however, as our defense has improved, our backup goalie is better (ish), The forwards are different, anyway. We have three rookies looking to prove themselves - Sandin, Mikheyev, Timashov - vets who have a change of scenery - Ceci, Barrie - and another GTA kid looking to make his childhood dreams come true in Jason Spezza.

Much has been made over the Leafs acquiring Cody Ceci, and losing Nazem Kadri, and overpaying the core of the team. That was some great off-season talk* but now it’s time to let this team show us what they can do on the ice.

*It was horrible.

Who’s playing where?

Here are the lines from the morning skate:

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Kasperi Kapanen - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - Alex Kerfoot - Trevor Moore
Dmytro Timashov - Nick Shore - Frederik Gauthier
Scratch: Jason Spezza

Jake Muzzin - Tyson Barrie
Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Rasmus Sandin - Martin Marincin
Scratches: Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren

Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

Who are we playing?

The opponent tonight is the long suffering Ottawa Senators. The fans have been protesting owner Eugene Melnyk for two years now, he doesn’t care and is doubling down on his nonsense. After badmouthing the Maple Leafs defense last season:

On the rebuild of the Toronto Maple Leafs: “look they’re stuck. OK, I better not say what I was going to say, but they’re going to have a very hard time winning a Stanley Cup without defence. Because they are hitting the cap. They can’t bring anybody new in. They’re stuck. And that’s where you have to be extremely careful . . . mistakes were made. Somebody forgot about defence.”

The Senators went and hired the coach in charge of the Leafs defence, DJ Smith, and brought on board top Leafs defenders Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev. These are of course, to help replace traded Norris winning defender Erik Karlsson, who was deemed unnecessary by the Senators. Connor Brown is a first line winger. Nikita Zaitsev is on their top defence pairing. It’s going to be a fun game.

If you’re looking for lines, we won’t get any.

The PPP spies did dig out a copy of Smith’s lines from the trash:

Tkachuk - Pageau? - Guy
Guy - Guy - Bobby Ryan’s unbroken hand
Guy - Guy - Guy
Guy - Guy - Who?

Chabot - Guy
$70k/year - Guy
Guy - Guy

The jockstrap left from Marner’s deke
Guy

What’s the big story for tonight’s game?

The overall story that begins tonight is this Leafs team’s fight to make it out of the first round. The team built around Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, Frederik Andersen, and William Nylander is looking to establish itself at the top of the division, conference, and league. That begins with tonight’s game.

The game specific story, probably at least from the Senators point of view, is the pre-season antics between Auston Matthews and Scott Sabourin:

Matthews checked the name of the guy who’s trying to make the Senators by chirping the biggest name on the Leafs. THAT’S IT. That’s what the Senators are focused on heading into tonight’s game:

I’m sure Matthews knows all about how it was to ride the buses from his teammates like Travis Dermott, Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Frederik Gauthier, Michael Hutchinson, Rasmus Sandin, Jake Muzzin, Kenny Agostino, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, Travor Moore, and so on.

My favourite thing is you know Melnyk is just furious at this disrespect and has money on the board for anyone who will try and put Matthews “in his place”.

Hit ‘em with the four Auston.

Guess who’s back?

Every game there’s always some connection between the Maple Leafs and their opponents.

I already mentioned them above, but the former Leafs coming home tonight are:

Connor Brown - 253GP, 43G, 56A, 99pts
Ron Hainsey - 161GP, 9G, 37A, 46Pts
Nikita Zaitsev - 223GP, 12G, 51A, 63Pts
Tyler Ennis - 51GP - 12G - 6A - 18Pts
DJ Smith - Former Assistant Coach


That should get you ready for tonight’s game. Find your seat, get your pop, and get ready.

Go. Leafs. Go.