Here we are, Toronto Maple Leafs fans, 15 games into the season and the Leafs are number one in the North Division, and number one in the NHL overall. How can it get any better?
How about a three game homestand against the worst team in the league?
Yes! The Ottawa Senators are in town until Friday morning, where they will hopefully leave town with their tails between their legs, and have Pierre Dorion doing more research into Owen Power, Brandt Clarke, and many others who sit atop weirdly scouted 2021 draft lists.
Here is the Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators schedule for this week at the Scotiabank Arena:
Game 16 - Monday February 15th
Broadcast Start: 7:00PM
Channels: TSN4, TSN5, RDS, NHL Live
Game 17 - Wednesday February 17th:
* National Game *
Broadcast Start: 7:00PM
Channels: All the Sportsnets, TVA Sports, NHL Live
Game 18 - Thursday February 18th:
Broadcast Start: 7:00PM
Channels: Sportsnet Ontario, TSN5, RDS, NHL Live
Now, I’d like to think that we can get extremely cocky about playing the Senators this week: The Leafs have lost only four games, while the Senators have only won three. The Maple Leafs have a +15 goal differential while the Senators are at -30. The Leafs are 6-2 at home while the Senators are 2-7 on the road.
Everything shows the Maple Leafs should win this series, except one thing: The record between these two teams this season is 1-1 with the Senators leading 7-6 in goals.
Yes, these were the second and third games of a season without a full training camp or exhibition games. Yes, past performance doesn’t predict future success. I’m just bringing this up so everyone can keep expectations from running wild. Here’s a full comparison of basic team stats heading into Monday’s game:
|23GF - 21GA - +2
|21GF - 23GA - -2
|16% - 11th
|22.6% - 7th
|77.4% - 10th
|84% - 6th
|Auston Matthews - 4
|Colton, Palat - 3
|Mitch Marner - 5
|Nikita Kucherov - 6
|Auston Matthews - 8
|Nikita Kucherov - 8
|Ilya Lyubushkin - 18
|Jan Rutta - 17
|TJ Brodie - 22:44
|Victor Hedman - 25:45
|Jack Campbell - .893sv%
|Andrei Vasilevskiy - .885sv%
It’s nice to see someone on the Senators with double digits in a stat category, so congratulations Austin Watson for your penalties.
Leading up to this week’s series, both the Senators and the Leafs have made some personnel changes.
The Senators moved Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk to the Carolina Hurricanes to bring back Ryan Dzingle.
Since this move was made over the weekend, Dzingel won’t be available to the Senators this week since he has to quarantine for 14 days after crossing the border.
The Senators are also struggling with goaltending this season, with Matt Murray not coming through on his $25 million deal early on in the season and the team playing their fourth string goalie Joey Daccord at times.
In the Senators previous game against the Winnipeg Jets* they lined up like this (former Maple Leafs/Marlies in bold):
Brady Tkachuk - Chris Tierney - Connor Brown
Nick Paul - Colin White - Evgenii Dadonov
Tim Stützle - Derek Stepan - Drake Batherson
Artem Anisimov - Josh Norris - Austin Watson
Thomas Chabot - Nikita Zaitsev
Mike Reilly - Artem Zub
Christian Wolanin - Erik Gudbranson
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have also been busy. They signed former Senator Scott Sabourin to an NHL contract and bumped him up to the Taxi Squad, while Rasmus Sandin has been sent down to the Toronto Marlies.
Sabourin, you may know best from this interaction with Auston Matthews:
Joe Thornton has missed ten games for the Maple Leafs with a broken rib, but this weekend he’s said he is excited to get back into the line up:
Joe Thornton on his recovery: "I've been taking some light hits and some big hits and medium hits so right now I feel really good. I got no restrictions so the hardest part is over here, and now I can just go and focus on playing."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 14, 2021
At practice yesterday we saw these lines:
Joe Thornton - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - Alex Kerfoot - Pierre Engvall
Jimmy Vesey - Jason Spezza - Scott Sabourin
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Zach Bogosian
Spares: Martin Marincin, Mikko Lehtonen, Nic Petan, Travis Boyd, Alex Barbanov, Joe Woll
Of course, coach Sheldon Keefe threw water right on those lines:
Keefe said today in terms of all the final lines for tomorrow “I haven’t made any determinations and I wouldn’t assume anything based on today’s practice.”— David Alter (@dalter) February 14, 2021
Whatever lines the Maple Leafs do roll out, expectations are high for solid victories for each game of this series. Another 5-3 loss to the Senators will surely send Leafs nation (not to mention Leafs Nation) spiraling into a pit of despair and “how could they do this?!” Even a close victory like the Leafs previous 3-2 win over the Senators will be seen by some as too close a game; I know I was a little disappointed in how close that second game was back in January.
I just keep reminding myself that not every game against a bad team can be a blow out, the Senators have beaten the Canadiens and Maple Leafs this season, and have taken the Oilers to a thirteen goal game.
The Leafs can win all of these games. The Leafs should win all these games.
Will they, though?
Sabourin, Petan, Barabanov staying out late at Leafs morning skate and project to be out tonight (along with Marincin and Lehtonen)— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 15, 2021
Travis Boyd wasn’t on the ice and appears likely to stay in the lineup on the fourth line with Vesey-Spezza
Matt Murray is in the #sens starter's net at morning skate in Toronto.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 15, 2021
Except then the Sens said this:
Daccord will back up Hogberg tonight— Ken Warren (@Citizenkwarren) February 15, 2021