The first Battle of Ontario takes place tonight at Scotiabank Arena, formerly the Air Canada Centre. Like the Rogers Centre will always be the SkyDome to me, the Scotiabank Arena will always be the ACC, and I think I speak for more than myself. The Leafs will have the benefit of playing at home in their first two games of the season. They survived against the Canadiens, barely, dispatching them in overtime with a score of 3-2.
That’s too close for Mike Babcock, who watched his team get beat to the puck and out skated for the majority of the night. The good teams know how to win those games, though, and we might finally be talking about a good hockey team in Toronto. There were still indicators in the opener to me that they have some work to do to get to the Final. Frederik Andersen was seeing too much action, the same thing as last season. He had to bail them out in the opener, which isn’t a surprise to anyone who follows hockey.
With that said, the Leafs need to be better on defence tonight, and they need to be better on defence for the regular season all the way into the playoffs. The offence is stacked, yes, but it’s likely not going to work in the playoffs against other teams with offences that can match them. For the Senators, their first game is probably a capsule of how the rest of the season is going to go. They tried, but it isn’t going to be enough. Getting a point is going to be a good night for the Sens going forward, though. They took a 3-2 lead into the 2nd period and then the 3rd period, but the Blackhawks tied it up and won on a nice play by Pat Kane. Ottawa will hope to shake it off in Toronto this evening. Get our free Senators vs. Maple Leafs pick below.
Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Maple Leafs better hope that Andersen can stay healthy this season. With the departures of Pickard and McElhinney, the Leafs are left with Garret Sparks as their backup. Sparks is a good AHL netminder, but I don’t think he belongs in the NHL. He might be good for a spot start here and there, though carrying the lead seems like it would sink the Leafs’ season pretty fast. They better score 6 goals every night to have much of a chance.
Anderson and the Senators’ defence looked slow against a decent Chicago team, but they are going to have to be ready to go tonight. After playing slow against the Canadiens on Wednesday, look for Babcock to flying on all cylinders in this one. The Sens allowed 3.46 goals per game last season for 30th in the league, so they’re off to a similar start in 2018-19. Note that the Leafs have averaged 4 goals per game in their last six games against Ottawa. Again, consistently bad for the Sens on defence.
The Senators allowed 43 shots against the Blackhawks. Anderson is going to get peppered with shots all season long and it likely is going to be the case tonight. They are going to have to get Matt Duchene going in Toronto tonight. The offence has been pretty good against the Leafs, with an average of 4 goals per, just like Toronto, in their last six meetings. During that time, the OVER has gone 6-0. Dating back to 2016, the OVER has cashed at a rate of 7-1 in their previous eight meetings. To add to that, the OVER is 16-5 in their last 21 meetings. The Sens have the upper-hand with a record of 7-3 in the last ten meetings. In any case, if you want a game with goals this one should be right up your alley on Saturday night.