The Maple Leafs take on the Senators tonight in Ottawa, where it’s always a lively crowd. Here are the Leafs three keys heading into tonight.
Channelling Past Success
As has been common with back-to-back games, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle is expected to go with James Reimer in goal. Reimer has always brought out his best performances at Canadian Tire Centre, where he is 7-1-0 all-time with two shutouts, a 1.12 goals against average and .970 save percentage. Reimer will be motivated to shake off his previous start, where he gave up four goals on 30 shots against the Detroit Red Wings. While Jonathan Bernier has played well over the past couple of starts, expect James Reimer to push the issue. Carlyle has shown a confidence to ride the hot hand, having given Reimer back-to-back starts, earlier this season.
An Identical and Different Test in Ottawa
Like the Islanders, the Senators hot the Leafs holding a 4-1 record. While similar in results, it’s the defence that have been a strength for Ottawa. Despite being outshot in all five games, they have conceded just ten goals, thanks to stellar goaltending from both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner. The Leafs will have to get bodies to the net to get the dirty goals if they are to win. Perimeter shots are not likely to get the job done, like they were on Long Island.
Erik Karlsson has shown a certain swagger as the new captain of Ottawa. His ability to jump in on the play and hustle back, make him one of the more dangerous defencemen in the NHL. He’ll be a focal point for the Leafs. Kyle Turris and former Maple Leaf Clarke MacArthur, provide a threat to the Leafs defence.
Ride Phil and Offence
Phil Kessel is notorious for being a streaky player, which is a good thing. Once Kessel gets going, goals happen with regularity. Given that the Leafs are 3-0 with Kessel scoring and 0-3-1 when he doesn’t, a goal or two from number 81 could go a long way to securing another win. Carlyle said that they weren’t sure if the Leafs would go with seven defencemen again tonight. Given the minutes that some of the forwards logged as a result, six defencemen could prove to be effective over a more defensive minded Sens team.
If there is any standout indication of how well the Leo Komarov-Mike Santorelli-David Clarkson line, it’s that Komarov leads the Leafs with five assists. That line will have to continue to forechek as well as it has.
Nazem Kadri has now gone four consecutive games without a point but can turn that around with a good showing. He has 13 points in 11 career games against the Senators.