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Preview: The Maple Leafs should probably win this game maybe

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The Jets* should have been a challenge. Tonight’s game absolutely should not.

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
You stay out of this, ref.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the greatest hockey franchises in the world, has struggled of late. After some dominating performances against the Edmonton Oilers and two of the best players in the league, the Leafs have limped along, struggling to beat both a lowly basement dwelling team (Vancouver Canucks, W 4-2, L 3-1) and the team right behind them in the standings (Winnipeg Jets*, L 4-3, W 4-3 OT) including a brutal 5-2 loss last night.

Tonight they play one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators
7:00PM - Sportsnet, TVA Sports

This shouldn’t be an issue, however their past isn’t an indication we’ll have an easy game tonight. While they do have a 3-1-1 record against the Senators, it hasn’t ben easy pickings.

January 15th: Senators 5 - Maple Leafs 3
January 16th: Maple Leafs 3 - Senators 2
February 15th: Senators 6 - Maple Leafs 5 (OT)
February 17th: Maple Leafs 2 - Senators 1
February 18th: Maple Leafs 7 - Senators 3

Three out of the five games against the Senators were one goal games, much too close a score for teams so far apart in standings and situations. The first meeting between these teams was an unbelievable 5-3 loss, but thankfully in their last meeting almost a month ago the Leafs figured things out and beat Ottawa the way they were meant to.

If the Leafs can channel the energy they had on the 18th, and Auston Matthews, Joe Thornton, and Mitch Marner have 3+ point nights again, this should be the game we were expecting.

Preview Stats

Leafs Team Jets*
Leafs Team Jets*
28-11-4 Record 26-14-3
142GF - 112GA - +30 Goal Differential 139GF - 113GA - +26
22.5% - 11th Power Play 25.8% - 4th
77% - 22nd Penalty Kill 80.4% - 13th
Auston Matthews - 32 Most Goals Kyle Connor - 19
Mitch Marner - 39 Most Assists Mark Schiefle - 33
Marner / Matthews - 53 Most Points Mark Schiefle - 49
Zach Bogosian - 47 Most PM Blake Wheeler - 36
Morgan Rielly - 23:48 TOI Leader Josh Morrisey - 23:41
Jack Campbell - .930 sv% Starting Goalie (?) Connor Hellebyuck - .919sv%

On paper, the Maple Leafs should have this game won by halfway through the first period. The leading goal scorer on the Senators would be fourth on the Maple Leafs, behind Auston Matthews (21), William Nylander (12), and Mitch Marner (11), with John Tavares and Zach Hyman (8) nipping at his heels.

All three of their starting goalies (yes, even the much feared, worse than Vesa Toskala to some Frederik Andersen) are better than the Senators goalies. The defense isn’t Thomas Chabot and [squints at notes] Nikita Zaitsev?

With the Maple Leafs having played last night and they flew into Ottawa this morning so I wouldn’t expect a skate of any kind. Perhaps we’ll see a fourth liner swaps spots in the game tonight. Here are last nights lines for you to speculate over.

Hyman - Matthews - Marner
Thornton - Tavares - Nylander
Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Engvall
Vesey - Boyd - Spezza

Rielly - Brodie
Muzzin - Holl
Dermott - Bogosian

Hutchsinson
Andersen

The Senators, meanwhile, are returning home from an almost two week road trip with the final three games being consistent beat downs from the Edmonton Oilers. With a day off yesterday the team gathered for a quick skate and practice, and that gave us these lines:

They’ve also been decorating, just for us!

I know I bring it up a lot, but I’m enjoying how the Senators fans are turning this write off of a season around for themselves.

Also, another thing I’m hating Ottawa for: Being one of the best dressed teams in the league, and we get to see that again tonight with their reverse retro jerseys.

In Leafs news, forward Scott Sabourin was suspended in the AHL for his actions in his last played game. He’s currently on the Leafs taxi squad, and this won’t interfere with NHL playing time (if he gets any).

Tonight’s game isn’t exactly a must win, but it’s a should win. The Leafs are still in first place ahead of the Jets*, though that gap has closed a lot since the series loss. After tonight the Leafs have four days off before two back to back games with the Flames, and then it’s another four days off.

Game’s at seven. Go Leafs Go!