Ottawa Senators Taking The Division Lead
With their win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night the Ottawa Senators have surpassed the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division. This also puts them nine points ahead of the playoff cut-off. Realistically at this point in the season the Sens will finish either first or second in the Atlantic. Barring a collapse, the Sens will play one of three teams in the first round. They will face one of the Bruins, Maple Leafs, or Rangers.
The New York Rangers
If the Sens win the Atlantic the odds lean towards a match-up with the New York Rangers. There is an off chance one of the Penguins or Blue Jackets could fall to the first wild card spot but that doesn’t look particularly likely. Despite giving them their highest possible seed, this would likely give the Sens their toughest opponent. In all likelihood the Rangers will finish with a better record than Ottawa. However, they aren’t as far apart as many seem to think.
The Sens are just 4 points back and have a game in hand. The two currently hold a 1-1 record vs each other this season. One game is still yet to be played between the two near the end of the season. Many in the community would prefer for the Sens to finish second in the Atlantic to get a weaker opponent. The Rangers have been made out to be a giant that will stop the Sens early. Although they could be just that, these two teams are closer in quality than many seem to think.
The Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins could very well be the Sens’ first round opponent. They could also be their ideal match-up. The Bruins are the lowest scoring team of the Sens’ likely playoff match-ups. This is best for a Senators team that plays a very defensive system. If the Sens don’t have to worry about their opponent being an offensive juggernaut they can better focus on their game. Currently the Sens’ have a 2-0 record over the Bruins. They still play two more times before the season is up. In my opinion this is the ideal match-up for the Sens.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
Lastly we have the Maple Leafs. Many hope the Sens avoid the Leafs at all costs because the Leafs have a 4-0 record against the Sens in the playoffs. However, this is not the right mentality to have. The last time these teams played each other was in 2004. The only player that was around for those series whose still here is Chris Neil. He might not even make the Sens’ starting lineup. These Leafs do not have the Sens number. The only connection between these teams and the teams from a decade ago are logos. The Sens are 3-1 vs the Leafs this season. The Leafs are also the least experienced of all their potential match-ups. While experience isn’t a stat that can be looked at an analysed, it’s rare for teams to do much in their first playoff appearance with a new, young core. This should be a great match-up for Ottawa, and Sens fans should want them. Who doesn’t want to be the one to knock Toronto out of the playoffs?
The First Round And Beyond
No match-up in the playoffs is ever easy. No one should be taken lightly. The Sens shouldn’t be afraid of anyone they could face either. The Rangers could be a tough match-up but the two teams have an even record vs each other this season. The Sens are positive against the Leafs and Bruins. No matter who the Sens draw first, it looks like it’ll be a great series. One match-up could be easier than another, but you have to beat everyone to win the Stanley Cup. The playoffs were never meant to be easy, but no matter who they face, the Sens are up to the task.