MAPLE LEAFS (22-33-11) at SENATORS (31-30-8)
One team has cemented itself into a bottom five finish, the other is unsure which way to go. When the Toronto Maple Leafs take to the ice tonight at the Canadian Tire Centre, it is with the hope of slaying the Senators’ chances for 2016 playoff hockey.
A year ago, Ottawa was in the midst of an improbable winning streak. The Hamburglar was born and Ottawa’s scoring became cemented in “Stone”. Now it appears that the magic is over and reality of Ottawa’s talent and depth will not allow for a playoff entry this year.
Mark Stone is on pace to duplicate his success from the 2014/2015 season. For the sophomore Andrew Hammond his goals against average and save percentage has ballooned compared to stellar numbers during Ottawa’s final 25 games last season. The Sens current demise can’t be attributed to these two though. Four core players are awaiting infirmary clearance to return to the ice.
38 year old Chris Philips has likely played his last game in the NHL. Injured last season the defensive veteran of 1179 games has not played this season. Ottawa is the only NHL team he has known and his contract expires this year. If this is indeed his final season, there’s no doubt both Ottawa fans and Leafs Nation will wish him well in his post hockey endeavors. A class act and great ambassador for the game of hockey.
Clark MacArther, Kyle Turris and Mark Borowiecki round out Ottawa’s injury list. Given the nature of their injuries and statements from Ottawa general manager Brian Murray, it is doubtful we will see any action from the three again this season.
Former Toronto Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf seems to be settling in nicely with his new club. His numbers in Ottawa are very similar to his 2015/16 Toronto stats. Consistency and a veteran role has helped in settling down an Ottawa defense that was is need of stability. Kudos to Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello in unloading that albatross contract and get some decent assets in return.
Ottawa is 4-4-2 in it’s past 10 games and is currently on a three game losing streak.
This is the final meeting between these two clubs this year. Ottawa is looking for the win and a season sweep of the Buds. Always enjoyable are the thousands of Leaf fans that will be in attendance tonight. Often out cheering Senators fans despite Eugene Melnyk’s efforts to ban anything Toronto.
If you watched Toronto vs the New York Islanders three nights ago, you were treated to some pretty good hockey. Especially in the third period and overtime frame where the Toronto youngsters out-skated, out-smarted, out-passed and eventually out-scored their opposition for a shootout win. Nylander’s second goal of the season with 1:13 remaining in the third period set the stage for that exciting overtime period and the eventual shoot out winner by the red hot Soshnikov.
Nylander played a terrific bounce back game after being called out by Leaf coach Mike Babcock. Zach Hyman scored his second NHL goal in as many games and Soshnikov continues to impress with a brilliant start to his NHL career. It will be exciting to watch these three over the last 15 games as they continue to gain confidence and experience.
Surely, what fans saw on Wednesday night is just a hint of what is to come over the next several years. To quote the legendary rock icons The Who . . . “The Kids are Alright.”
Yet, another Marlie may be making his NHL debut tonight. Rinat Valiev practiced with the big club on Friday and will likely get the nod from Babcock. If so, this will make nine Leaf players this season playing their first ever NHL game. Sparks will be starting his third consecutive game.
By all accounts and despite the standings the great rebuild is offering hope. It is fair to say that Leafs management is in a very small measure regaining the trust of the faithful.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Nikita Soshnikov – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
P.A. Parenteau – William Nylander – Zach Hyman
Colin Greening – Brooks Laich – Peter Holland
Milan Michalek – Ben Smith – Michael Grabner
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Rinat Valiev – Frank Corrado
Zack Smith – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Mark Stone
Mike Hoffman – Mika Zibanejad – Alex Chiasson
Ryan Dzingel – Scott Gomez – Bobby Ryan
Nick Paul – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil
Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Mike Kostka – Chris Wideman
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -27
Gdiff (All) — -38
CF% (5v5) – 51.7
PP% – 15.4
PK% – 80.2
Gdiff (5v5) — -7
Gdiff (All) — -20
CF% (5v5) – 47.6
PP% – 17.2
PK% – 74.3