Game Day Questions: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators

Game Day Questions: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators

UPDATE: Today’s game between the Leafs and the Senators has been postponed by the NHL due to events in Ottawa. The game will be rescheduled at a later time.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping to build on a big over the New York Islanders last night when they renew their rivalry with the Ottawa Senators later today.

Toronto has dominated the Battle of Ontario in recent years – they won the season series 3-1 last year and 4-1 in 2013-2014 – and another win tonight over the Senators would help the Leafs (3-3-1) inch above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Ottawa (4-1-0), however, have enjoyed a strong start to the season so it won’t be a cakewalk for the Leafs by any stretch of the imagination.

Below are three key questions facing the Leafs tonight.

1) Who gets the start: Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer?

(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Jonathan Bernier (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

This might sound like an odd question – the start would normally go to the other goalie in back-to-back games and Jonathan Bernier started last night – but Bernier’s coming off a pair of strong starts. That could be enough to give him the edge over James Reimer, who’s dominated the Senators throughout his young career (he’s 7-1 lifetime against them).

On the other hand, the Leafs might want to give Reimer another shot after he stumbled at home last week against the Detroit Red Wings, losing 5-2. Prior to this, Reimer had won two straight games for the Leafs – their first two wins of the season – and helped Toronto move past Bernier’s shaky start to the season.

As mentioned, Bernier has now put up two solid starts of his own and the Leafs might want to ride the hot glove. Part of this decision will certainly rest on who the Leafs really think gives them the best chance to win over the long term. They can’t kept alternating between both goalies all season.

2) Can the top line stay hot?

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winter Classic, Tom Turk, The Hockey Writers, THW, Hockey, NHL
Phil Kessel (Tom Turk/The Hockey Writers)

After getting silenced by the Red Wings across two games last week, the top line of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak exploded for six points (three goals, three assists) last night at the Islanders’ expense. It’d be great to see this level of production continue tonight.

As I wrote earlier today, the Leafs’ early season success is highly dependent on the offensive output of their first line. The second line hasn’t been able to pick up the slack when the first line stumbles and while the third line of David Clarkson, Leo Komarov and Mike Santorelli has exceeded everyone’s expectations so far, they’re no replacement for the top line.

The Leafs need Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Bozak to score. It’s that simple.

3) Does the crowd factor into the game?

James Reimer Toronto Maple Leafs Brendan Shanahan
James Reimer (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Part of the excitement surrounding the Battle of Ontario concerns the crowd in Ottawa Kanata and their divided loyalties.

Half of the arena will cheer for the Leafs tonight while the other half will show their support for the home team. This provides extra motivation for the Leafs, who want to reward their loyal fans, while I’m sure the Senators are always eager to silence the visiting circus.

In the past, we know the Senators have tried to prevent Leafs fans from attending games at the Canadian Tire Centre. Let’s show them why we’re so passionate about the Leafs.

Is the Senators hot start to the new season legitimate? Can the Leafs hand their provincial rivals another loss?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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