Toronto Maple Leafs: Looking to regain the Battle of Ontario

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Mitchell Marner
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Mitchell Marner /

The Ottawa Senators have owned the Battle of Ontario recently but a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs gives them a chance to change that.

It’s another rivalry night for the Toronto Maple Leafs and like last Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, the Leafs will look to reverse another trend against the Ottawa Senators.

While the Leafs have the more memorable victories in the three playoffs series that sparked the Battle of Ontario rivalry, it has not been as easy going lately. In 2013 and 2014 the Leafs own a 7-2 record against the Senators but the last two years have been a different story.

Since the 2015, Ottawa owns a 7-1 record against the Leafs which includes a 4-0 record against Toronto during the 2015-16 season when the Leafs finished last in the league. However, last year’s record is very telling on how the Senators have been able to keep pace with a talented Leafs squad.

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Last season the Leafs were outscored by the Senators 16-13 in four games, two of those games were decided by one goal and ended in the overtime and shootout. Ottawa’s success against the Leafs helped solidify their second place finish in the Atlantic last season finishing three points ahead of Toronto.

It would make a big difference for Ottawa as they would only have to go through the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers in the playoffs unlike the Leafs who had to crossover to face Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

Unlike past seasons, the Leafs and Senators had to wait seven games before playing each other. Both teams are separated by three points but that should not fool anyone going into tonight’s game. Ottawa was shutout by Vancouver on Tuesday and lost a close one against New Jersey in overtime on Thursday.

Erik Karlsson is just returning from an ankle injury and already has three points in two games. Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard are one-two in scoring for Ottawa with eight and seven points so the Leafs defence will have their hands full. However, the Leafs are not short on firepower themselves.

Toronto stands at the top of the NHL with 34 goals led ironically enough by Auston Matthews with six goals and 10 points in seven games followed by Nazem Kadri who has eight points in seven games. However the real battle in this game will come between the pipes.

In two games against the Leafs last season, Craig Anderson won both starts but had a 3.48 GAA and a .907 sv%. Frederik Andersen played against Ottawa three times last season going 0-1-2  with a 3.58 GAA and a .887 sv%. If the Leafs want to regain the advantage in the Battle of Ontario, it will be up to Andersen to outduel his counterpart.

In three road starts this season Andersen is 3-0 with a 1.66 GAA and a .950 sv% so the odds are with the Leafs in this one considering Ottawa has not won at home this season with an 0-1-3 record.

Head coach Guy Boucher will face a big test as the top penalty kill goes up against the third ranked powerplay. Knowing the style of play that Ottawa employs expect the Senators to try to clog up the neutral zone in order to slow down the Leafs puck carriers.

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One thing is for certain, the Battle of Ontario is alive and well and hopefully for the Leafs, they are able to regain the edge in the rival with a win .