It may only be December 7th, but I feel pretty confident in saying that the Ottawa Senators season is on the line tonight at the Canadian Tire Centre.
When the rival Toronto Maple Leafs and their HBO circus role into town tonight, they bring with them the coveted final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference along with a seven point cushion over the Senators. If that lead is stretched to nine points, it would be all but impossible for the Sens to catch up. If Ottawa can’t win tonight, they are in deep, deep trouble.
Teams have come out of dreadful starts like the one the Sens have had to the 2013/2014 season but to do it, you have to go on some kind of run. With the addition of the three point game, it has become next to impossible to close ground in the standings. One thing that’s for certain is you need to beat the teams you are chasing. The website Sports Club Stats has the Ottawa’s chances at 14.8 % coming into tonight’s action. According to their projections Ottawa will need to go about 30-17-6 to reach the 92 point mark, which should be enough to qualify in the East.
It seems daunting but the Senators really do have to find a way to string some wins together and it has to start tonight against their provincial rivals.
The Leafs are coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in a game where they were outshot by a 50-24 margin. That has sort of been the Leafs “thing” this season. They have been getting outshot and outplayed on most nights but have been getting some unbelievable goaltending from both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer. The advanced stats type will tell you the bottom is about to fall out for the Leafs and their recent five game losing streak seems to suggest a trend in that direction. The Leafs have an unbelievable tough schedule coming up and are likely looking at tonight’s game as two points they desperately need.
Paul MacLean is leaning towards one predictable change to his line up, inserting forward Matt Kassian for the first time in 10 games. With all the goon types on the Leafs roster, the Senators want to make sure they have their tough guy out there in case things turn ugly. That’s the theory, anyway. MacLean would not confirm 100% that Kassian will play but it seems like there’s a good chance. No word on who comes out of the line up if Kassian does play.
Just an optional skate for the Senators this morning so line combinations will be up in the air until game time.
Craig Anderson gets the start for the Senators. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 7:00 PM with the game available on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. Highly suggest having the mute button close by tonight as their telecast now includes both Glen Healy and Nick Kypreos.