Two teams from opposite ends of the Atlantic Division face off tonight. The Ottawa Senators (19-28-5, 8th Atlantic) head back on the road for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (32-17-3, 2nd Atlantic).
The Leafs are looking for their third straight victory after dispatching the Penguins and Ducks at home. They are only 5-4-1 in their last ten games but are sitting comfortably in a playoff spot. As for the Senators, their 43 points mark the lowest total in the league and are currently marred in a four-game losing streak. This is only the second meeting between these two clubs this season, with the Senators winning 5-3 in Ottawa all the way back on October 6th.
As anticipated, the Maple Leafs are big favorites to win at home tonight. Right now, Toronto is listed at -310.
Life Without Erik
It is no surprise that this has been a difficult year in Ottawa. After trading franchise cornerstone Erik Karlsson to the Sharks in September, the Senators are relying on youth and the hope that a new player or two takes over as the new superstar.
Defensively, the lack of Karlsson has certainly been felt. Ottawa ranks dead last in goals allowed and shots allowed, while also ranking 27th in penalty kill percentage. Their goal differential, -35, is 30th in the NHL, only ahead of the Anaheim Ducks.
The defense is the main thing holding Ottawa down right now, as their offensive play has been okay. The Senators are 12th in the NHL with 3.06 goals per game, despite ranking 24th in shots on goal. They are also a respectable 14th in power play percentage, while 7th with a 10.4 shooting percentage.
Forward Mark Stone leads the team in goals and assists, with veteran Matt Duchene not too far behind. Rookie defenseman and All-Star Thomas Chabot has impressed in his first season, scoring 10 goals and tying Stone for the team-lead in assists with 29. However, Chabot, Cody Ceci, and new acquisition Dylan DeMelo have struggled to keep opposing teams from scoring.
Longtime goaltender Craig Anderson is expected to start tonight for Ottawa. The veteran is 14-16-3 with a 3.51 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
The Maple Leafs are going into tonight’s game with their star player locked up and very wealthy. On Tuesday, forward Auston Matthews agreed to a five-year contract extension that will pay him a total of $58.17 million. Matthews now joins teammate John Tavares as two of the richest players in the sport.
Matthews plays a huge role in Toronto’s scoring prowess. The Leafs rank 4th in goals per game at 3.56, while also ranking 3rd in shooting percentage. They score a lot despite being just 16th in shots on goal and 12th in power-play percentage. They also dominate in the dot, ranking as the 2nd-best faceoff team in the league.
Defense has plagued Toronto for several years, but things are turning around. The acquisition of Jake Muzzin has greatly helped a unit that now ranks 8th in goals allowed. They are also the best team in the league at staying out of the penalty box, averaging just 6.4 penalty minutes a night.
It speaks to the talent of the Leafs when Matthews, who missed 14 games this year due to injury, ranks just 4th in points. Forward Mitch Marner leads the dynamic group with 63 points, followed by Tavares (56) and defenseman Morgan Rielly (52). Nazem Kadri, Kasperi Kapanen, and Patrick Marleau are a few of the other players scoring 25 or more points this year.
Despite facing a high total of 32.4 shots per game, goaltender Frederick Andersen is having a career year. Andersen, who is projected as tonight’s starter, is 23-11-2 with a 2.52 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Despite Ottawa getting the better of Toronto at the beginning of the year, the Maple Leafs should cruise to victory. The Leafs offense against the Senators defense is the biggest difference-maker and could make the game ugly. I’ll take the Maple Leafs to win at home -310.