The Ottawa Senators kept their playoff hopes alive last night in dramatic fashion, with Kyle Turris scoring on a breakaway in overtime to secure a huge two points in the nation’s capital. The Leafs got what you might consider a win of their own last night, albeit in much less exciting fashion. Falling to the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the shootout, Toronto was able to keep themselves in contention for 4th last in the league heading into the final week of the season. The games are critical now. Every single point matters. Tonight’s two teams in the Battle of Ontario may be fighting for two very different things, but the stakes have never been higher. Tonight, the Sens and Leafs put it all on the line in what is the biggest game of the season for both teams.
It’s hard to say exactly how tonight’s game will go down. Both teams are coming off elongated games from the night previous. Ottawa is the better team, but Toronto has won 2 of the 3 matchups that the teams have had this year. The important thing that matters is that no matter what happens tonight, Toronto is still likelier to reach their ultimate goal for this season than Ottawa is. While the Senators run spearheaded by Andrew Hammond over the past month-and-a-half has been admirable, time is not on their side. With just a week to go in the season, Ottawa stands still three points back of the team they are most closely chasing – the Boston Bruins. And while the Sens have a game in hand, even a win against the Leafs onight would keep them on the outside looking in.
Toronto, on the other hand, is in prime position to secure 27th in the league. This of course is crucial because it means the Leafs get as high a draft pick as possible. You see, even with a win tonight (like, a real win, as in two points in the standings) the Leafs would still be far enough away from the Carolina Hurricanes to remain comfortable. Even with a win tonight, the Leafs would be two points back of the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, Carolina would have two games in hand. Again, time is running out on both teams, but Toronto is in a better position to get where they want to go. Well, where the fans want them to go anyways.
Expected Lines via DailyFaceoff.com
Admittedly, this picture is a little outdated. Don’t expect T.J. Brennan to play – he’s not even on the roster. Andrew MacWilliam is though, and you can slot him in alongside Tim Erixon. Up front, Peter Holland is expected to return from a ten-game absence while Trevor Smith, who left last night’s game against Boston early with a presumed head injury, will likely sit. Best of luck to Smith by the way. He looked pretty disoriented after he fell on his face and his season could very well be over at this rate. In fact, his Leafs career could be over. Smith isn’t a spectacular player, but he’s well-respected as a hard-worker and a good teammate. If this is the end of his Leaf career, hopefully he lands a job somewhere else in the NHL next season. You gotta love stories, and people, like him.
Expected Lines via DailyFaceoff.com
What I can tell you about this lineup is that I have picked Marc Methot up onto my fantasy hockey team for today’s game only. I’m on the verge of securing a fantasy hockey championship, and hopefully Methot can help me lock down the Average Time On Ice category.
Jonathan Bernier (55GP, .911 sv%) is the confirmed starter for Toronto.
At the other end, it remains to be seen whether Ottawa will go back to Andrew Hammond (20GP, .938 sv%) or turn to Craig Anderson (35GP, .923 sv%) as the Sens prepare to play their second game in as many nights.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Just enjoy the hockey folks. It’s been a very, very miserable three months or so if you’re a Leaf fan. You’ve probably gone from disappointment, to anger, to downright disinterest. You’ve probably stopped watching a lot of the games. The Leafs really haven’t given us any reason to be entertained since the calendar struck 2015. But this is the Leafs’ third last game of the season. After next Saturday, you’re not going to be able to watch this team in a regular season hockey game for another 6 months. I know we’re all pretty pissed off at the team right now, but deep down we all still love them. Try and forget all the misery this season has caused you and just sit back and enjoy a good ole Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.