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Maple Leafs vs. Senators Pick – NHL March 30th

After back-to-back losses, we’ll look to get back on track for a big Saturday slate of NHL games. With the weeks winding down in the regular season, every game has become pivotal, and that theory is especially true for tonight’s big clash in Ottawa. The red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the equally hot Ottawa Senators in as significant a Battle of Ontario as there’s been in sometime.

Toronto Maple Leafs (+105) @ Ottawa Senators (-125)

Though pretty much everybody in hockey circles wrote off the Ottawa Senators upon losing Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, somehow, some way, the Sens have thrived in their absence. Not only has Ottawa held onto a playoff position, they continue winning and are pushing hard for home ice in the first round. They’ve been getting exceptional production from some of their young talent, and their stifling defense and well-disciplined play has placed them in a favourable spot heading into April.

Conversely, for the Leafs they seem to have snapped out of their funk and have reeled off point sin seven straight contests. That said, they’ve done so against mostly inferior competition, and while they do seem primed top end their playoff drought, the type of game Ottawa will give them tonight, doesn’t suit the Leafs. The Sens will put extreme pressure on the Leafs’ defense, giving Toronto fits at getting the puck out of their own zone. Ottawa’s speed has given the defenseman on Toronto fits in previous games, and look for the Sens to generate a plethora of second and third-chance opportunities. Moreover, Jake Gardiner, Toronto’s top skating defenseman is likely to be a healthy scratch, potentially adding to the Leafs issues at removing the puck from their own zone.

Much of the Leafs issues this year can be attributed to a brutal shootout record, and don’t be surprised if this game ends up going to the skills competition. Though Toronto should be better in this regard, they simply haven’t had any success, and Ottawa’s depth and skill should propel them to victory. Ottawa plays exceptional on home ice, and even though these rivalry games typically draw in thousands of Leafs fans, the Sens have fared well at the Scotiabank Place in 2013. Ottawa is 13-2-3 on home ice this year, while the Leafs haven’t won away from home since February 28th.

Both teams enter this game playing fairly well, but the Sens have seemed to do it on a far more consistent basis. Expect a low-scoring, tight-checking affair, but ultimately look for Ottawa to prevail. The speed and tenacity of their forwards should cause fits for an overachieving Leafs’ defense, and if this game does go to a shootout, nobody could trust the Leafs. Take the Sens at a reasonable price.

PICK = Ottawa (-125)