Tonight’s game at the Air Canada Centre between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs is shaping up to be one of the most important games within the Atlantic division.
With most of the games caught up on each team due to the horrific bye-week, every two points will be crucial. Especially the so-called ‘four pointers’ against divisional rivals. We take a look at what Ottawa need to do stop Toronto’s rampaging offense.
Once again a crucial aspect of Ottawa’s success under Guy Boucher is the defensive system. When in motion it is one of the most formidable in the NHL currently. A bold statement perhaps, but come playoff time, a team that can defend will survive longer.
Stalling The Toronto Offensive
Toronto now have strength in depth offensively, spreading the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander on separate lines. The three rookies combining for 132 points.
One question mark that hangs over the Leafs tonight is that of the fitness of Mitch Marner. Who suffered a shoulder injury on the backend of a hit from Boone Jenner against Columbus. His absence could be monumental, think back to that first game, Matthews stole the headlines but Marner ran the show. Marner is easily the most exciting offensive prospect in the league right now from a viewing standpoint.
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The key to breaking this Toronto team is to stick to the defensive system, let them come at you, retrieve the puck and break against the fragile D pairings. As Senators fans have seen, when playing the new Toronto, it is normally a shootout. The more frustrated Toronto get offensively, the more risks they take, which lead to opportunities in their own zone.
Blue-line Point Production
A major change in recent games, has been the scoring from the blue-line. Not just from you-know-who but Dion Phaneuf as well. With three goals and four points in his last four games, Phaneuf has been aiding his team. Slapshots from the blue have looked increasingly dangerous from Ottawa. If they can fizz a few towards Andersen, they may just unsettle the struggling goaltender.
Avoiding all classic clichés, Ottawa’s game in Toronto tonight is crucial. One game out of an 82 game season doesn’t make your year but it can break it. Look at the standings, if Toronto win tonight they will only be a single game and point behind. On the flip side, Ottawa win and they are two points off Montreal with two games in hand.
It’s going to be a lottery from here on in, if they start by winning tonight, the air in Kanata might not feel so thin.