Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators - 7 PM on TSN5, TSN4 and RDS
Fresh off a win over the Calgary Flames — one that might have got the Flames coach fired if they hadn’t already tried that — the Ottawa Senators happily await the Leafs. They like when the Leafs come to town because something about the outer Ottawa suburbs makes the Leafs play like a pick-up team with Sunday morning ice time.
The Leafs do have a very slight edge in the season series over our nearest and dearest so far with three wins, two losses and one overtime loss. The goal differential is +2. All of that would be a fine record if the Senators weren’t deservedly one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Lately they’ve been shedding goalies like ... something that sheds a lot. You figure out the metaphor. Or simile, I never could get that straight. Anyway, they’ve already busted Joey Daccord, the latest to humiliate the Leafs, after losing their big risk signing Matt Murray, then their prospect Marcus Hogberg, and now they’re running with Filip Gustavsson, a 22-year-old they acquired in one of those complicated three-way trades that Vegas instigated that has given us all an insatiable thirst for more.
Gustavsson might be good, or he might be on a hot streak with three NHL starts and a totally sustainable .973 save %. He was very good in the AHL this year as well in a few games, which comes as a surprise to anyone familiar with his past, but should give us hope for Joe Woll. Gustavsson beat the Flames last night, so the Leafs might see someone else. The Senators just snatched Anton Forsberg on waivers, put him in the AHL on a conditioning stint for one game where he shutout the Marlies and did not at all look like a man who hasn’t played in a year, and yeah... can he do it to the Leafs?
Of course he can.
Meanwhile the Leafs will put Jack Campbell out to face whichever Swede is in the Ottawa net. In front of Campbell will likely be the “balanced” lines Sheldon Keefe used in the last game, and they’ve been consistently on display at practices this week. They look like this:
Leafs power play units at practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 23, 2021
Matthews - Thornton - Marner
Nylander - Tavares - Spezza
1/17 in last eight games
I don’t really understand the point of those power play units, but it should add fuel to the John Tavares is overpaid and washed up narrative, so that’s something to look forward to.
The lines bother me less, since it is absolutely the last moments when the Leafs can truly decide exactly what sort of forward trade will improve the team the most. They need to have a full understanding of who is really capable of doing what. I just don’t at all believe in Wayne Simmonds in that top-line role, and I don’t want him embarrassed in the name of data collection. I don’t believe Alex Galchenyuk is destined to hold that spot on the Tavares line, but you never know, they play such a limited role, maybe he’s perfect for that spot.
The real question for the Leafs is and has always been: Who proves worthy to play with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the only forwards Sheldon Keefe trusts? So far no one has measured up.
One thing is pretty clear to me, however. I don’t think the Leafs plan to trade Alex Kerfoot, or they wouldn’t be listing him as the 4C, even in practice.
Meanwhile, the Sens can’t make many alterations of note to their lineup, no matter how upset the fans are they won’t play Erik Brannstrom in the NHL.
Roster update: The #Sens have made the following roster moves:— Sens Communications (@Media_Sens) March 25, 2021
D Braydon Coburn has been recalled from the team's taxi squad.
LW Jack Kopacka has been re-assigned to @BellevilleSens while C Mark Kastelic has been recalled from Belleville and re-assigned to the taxi squad.
But choosing to put Braydon Coburn back on the roster is an interesting one.
Their most recent lineup looked like this (With Coburn swapped in for Wolanin):
Brady Tkachuk - Josh Norris - Evgenii Dadonov
Tim Stützle - Chris Tierney - Drake Batherson
Ryan Dzingel - Colin White - Nick Paul
Alex Formenton - Clark Bishop - Connor Brown
Thomas Chabot - Nikita Zaitsev
Mike Reilly - Artem Zub
Braydon Coburn - Josh Brown
There is the bones of a real team in the Ottawa lineup, and they definitely have skaters who outperform their goalies nearly every game. But the defence is Thomas Chabot and the Pylons, which absolutely should be a fifties vocal group doing the Lament of the Sens Fans.
Go Leafs Go, and remember, after tonight, there is only one more Sens game.