Preview: Senators & Maple Leafs Battle for Playoff Spot

The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs will reignite their rivalry on Saturday night as they battle each other for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Senators are a mere two points ahead of the Leafs, so Toronto has the chance to tie Ottawa in the standings. If the Leafs win in regulation, they will have the tiebreaker advantage.

The Maple Leafs are a different team than the last time the Senators faced them back in the season opener. Although the Toronto roster has changed little, their young stars are 40 games more experienced, and their improvement shows. The Leafs were 8-8-4 in their first 20 games, whereas they are 11-5-4 in their last 20. With a very tight game the last time these two teams met, we can expect much of the same with this one.

Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Canadian Tire Centre – 7 p.m. EST

Broadcast channels – CBC & City

2016-17 Season Series: October 12 – Senators won 5-4 (OT)

Ottawa Senators – 22-14-4 – 48 Points

Home Record: 13-6-4

Hot Players: Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris

Key Absences: Andrew Hammond (ankle), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Craig Anderson (personal leave)

Projected lines:


Zack Smith – Derick Brassard – Mark Stone

Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan

Mike Hoffman – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt

Chris Kelly – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil


Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman

Starting Goaltender

Mike Condon


Toronto Maple Leafs – 19-13-8 – 46 Points

Road Record: 9-6-6

Hot Players: James van Riemsdyk, Mitchell Marner, Connor Brown, Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri

Key Absences: Ben Smith (upper body), Martin Marincin (lower body)

Projected lines:


Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Connor Brown

Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitchell Marner

Matt Martin – Frederik Gauthier – Nikita Soshnikov


Morgan Rielly – Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak

Starting Goaltender

Curtis McElhinney

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Goaltender Curtis McElhinney will be making his Maple Leafs debut after Toronto claimed him off of waivers. He has not played much this season, only starting five games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has a 2.38 goals against average and a .924 save percentage, but those numbers are lowered to 2.96 and .903 in his career against the Senators.

Auston Matthews, NHL, Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] All eyes will be on Auston Matthews, as the last time these two teams met, he made history by scoring four goals in his first NHL game. He has not slowed down, with 15 goals in his last 22 games, he currently sits third in the league in goals. Add in the fact that his two wingers are also rookies, it is a testament to how much Matthews is already able to do on his own.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Mark Stone has been the Senators’ most consistent player and has lead the way at both ends of the rink. Since November 14, he has 11 goals and 26 points in 25 games. He also leads the league in takeaways, ahead by a wide margin, with 52 in 39 games. He will play an important role in slowing down the Leafs’ top forwards.

Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators, P.K. Subban, NHL Playoffs
Mark Stone (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Like they did in their previous game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Senators will have to commit to their defensive system by committee. The Leafs have scored the fifth most goals in the league since December 15, with 42 in 12 games. Toronto has several forwards that have been strong offensively in that time, with three of them averaging more than a point per game. They have not sacrificed defence for scoring goals either, as they are tied for fifth best in fewest goals allowed with 30. However, the Senators are coming into the game with faith in their defensive structure, as they have allowed the fewest goals in the league since December 15.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] The Senators and Maple Leafs are polar opposites when it comes to how they generally start and end hockey games. The Leafs are third-last when it comes to their win percentage (.682) after leading two periods of play whereas the Senators are seventh best (.929). The Senators have allowed their opposition to score first 23 times, compared to the Leafs doing so only 15 times. Toronto has a .200 win percentage, last in the league, when they allow the first goal of the game. Ottawa has the second-best win percentage in the league when scoring first at .765, therefore scoring the first goal will be as crucial as ever in this game.