One of the NHL‘s greatest rivalries will take center stage on Saturday night as the 2-0 Toronto Maple Leafs will welcome in the 1-0 Ottawa Senators in this season’s first edition of the Battle of Ontario.
Both teams are looking to prove that they can legitimately hang in with the likes of the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings when it comes down to the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings. The two teams will face off four times this season, all of which should make for very tight, classic hard-nosed hockey, grudge-style matches.
Expect this game to get messy right off the bat. There’s no doubt that Maple Leafs tough guy Colton Orr and the scrappy Senator Chris Neil will square off in what may be the first of many fights between the two right from the get-go. Both teams will be looking to spark their benches early on in the game, which should provide for some serious fireworks — just not the goal scoring type.
The Senators will have to do their best to keep up with the Maple Leafs in regards to punches thrown in this one, especially since the Buds recently called up tough guy Jamie Devane after placing Mark Fraser on LTIR. Devane will be looking to make his mark and his presence felt as he searches for someone and anyone to dance with.
There will be solid goaltending at both ends of the ice at the Air Canada Center in Toronto as the starting goaltending battle for the Maple Leafs will continue between James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, while the Senators will most likely start the hot Craig Anderson.
Reimer will most likely start for the Maple Leafs and will look to continue his solid beginning to the season, coming off a 4-3 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on the road. Anderson looked absolutely incredible against the Buffalo Sabres in his season debut, stopping all 35 shots that came his way, securing a 1-0 victory for his team on the road in Buffalo.
Expect this game to be won and lost on the power play and penalty kill. The Maple Leafs are no strangers to the sin bin, and the Senators can serve their fare share of penalty minutes as well. The tough guy attitude and style of play brought to the ice by the Maple Leafs will have to be matched by the Senators if they don’t want to get bullied to a loss.
If the Maple Leafs want to continue their solid start to the season, they will have to play tough, but they have to play smart as well. They can’t get out of hand in regards to how they try to push the Senators around.
There’s no doubt that tensions will be high in Toronto on Saturday night. Whenever these two teams collide, it is always something special. Expect gloves to be dropped and goalies to stand on their heads. They may even decide to meet in the middle of the ice for a dance of their own. That’s how hostile this game could very well get.