Leafs fans across Canada will look to forget the horror of last night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres tonight when they Leafs travel down HWY 401 to Scotiabank Place, in Kanata Ontario, to take on the Ottawa Senators. The “Battle of Ontario” is one in which fans of both teams get excited for, and for the most part, most match ups deliver on the excitement expected. There is a lot of history between these two teams, and the atmosphere at the Scotiabank Place (or Air Canada Center, when in Toronto) is always electric, with fans of both teams exchanging “pleasantries” with each other. While the Battle of Ontario is not what it once was, it is still a heated rivalry, so one should expect to see emotion on both sides.
The Leafs (8-10-1-2) are coming off of a poor effort in Buffalo last night, which saw the Leafs take stupid penalties in the first period, fall behind 2-0, and surrender a short handed goal in the third period to fall 3-1 to Ryan Miller and the Sabres. The Senators (10-12-1-0) are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight will be the third of six meetings between these two teams this season. The last game (November 2nd) saw the Ottawa Senators win 3-2 in Toronto. The previous game (October 9th) saw the Toronto Maple Leafs dominate Ottawa 5-1. In the past 10 meetings, the Leafs are 6-4-0-0. The Leafs sport a terrible road record thus far this season, going 2-6-0-1, whereas the Ottawa Senators sport a (slight) winning home record of 6-5-0-0.
There is no news at this point as to whether or not there will be any lineup changes tonight for the Leafs, so at this point, expect to see the same line up that was iced last night against the Sabres to face the Ottawa Senators. One can only hope that Ron Wilson reamed them out last night, and that they will actually show up tonight. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start in net, and has been looking spectacular thus far this season, especially since taking over the reigns from Giguere. Last night’s game could have been a lot worse for the Leafs had it not been for Gustavsson’s timely and difficult saves.
In terms of scoring for both teams, the Leafs currently sit 27th overall in the NHL in Goals For, whereas the Senators sit 22nd overall in Goals For. In terms of goal scoring breakdown, the following chart is provided which shows goals scored per period for each team.
The Leafs did nothing to improve against their goals against last night in Buffalo, and therefore the first period remains the worst period for the Leafs. They will need to improve upon their starts, immediately starting tonight in Ottawa. The Senators tend to give up the majority of their goals in the third period, however the Leafs can not afford to wait till the third period to show up to games any longer. They need to jump on Ottawa immediately in the first period, where the Senators have given up approximately 21 goals this season.
In terms of scoring first, the following charts are provided which show the frequency by which both teams score first, or are scored on first.
Both teams, astonishingly enough, have the same proportion of games in which they score first, and are scored on first. The Leafs need to ensure they get the first goal, and avoid falling behind early any longer. They need to establish themselves fast, and immediately. Provided below is a chart which shows the winning percentage of each team after scoring first, or having been scored on first.
The Leafs sport a 66% winning percentage when scoring first, but a terrible, approximately 16% winning percentage when trailing first. Ottawa sports a strong 80% winning percentage when scoring first, and an approximately 12% winning percentage when trailing first. As Ottawa has such a strong winning percentage when scoring first, and the Leafs have a poor winning percentage when trailing first, the Leafs need to ensure they get the first goal at all costs.
In terms of specific scoring for each team, the following charts are provided:
The Senators sport a slightly more balanced scoring team. They are led by Daniel Alfredsson and Spezza, and then surprisingly are led in scoring by two defensemen: Gonchar and Karlsson. To take things slightly further, I have provided a chart below which looks at the “Leaf Killers” on the Senators. This chart represents the points scored in total career games played against the Leafs for each “Leaf Killer”.
The players listed in the table above are absolute Leaf Killers. Three of the four players above are point a game players, or more, against the Leafs. The Leafs will need to shut down these players if they hope to have any chance of winning tonight.
In terms of the goaltending match up, Gustavsson will get his second start in as many days, against Brian Elliott. A chart is provided below which shows each goalies’ wins and losses in their career against the opposition.
Gustavsson has won the majority of his games against the Senators, whereas Elliott has lost the majority of his games against the Leafs. In addition to this, I have provided the following charts below which indicate the goals against average for each goalie.
Gustavsson has a fantastic career goals against average when playing the senators, whereas Elliott’s goals against average against the Leafs is much higher than his current home goals against average. Gustavsson has been incredibly strong this year, so expect him to have another stellar game tonight.
In terms of specialty teams, the following chart is provided:
From the chart above, it is clear that the Leafs need to improve their road power play if they want to win more games. The Leafs’ road power play is horrendous, sitting at around 7%! Their road penalty kill is also horrible, sitting at around 66%. The Senators sport a near 20% home power play, and an approximate 80% home penalty kill.
The Leafs seriously need to start potting more goals on the power play, and improving their road penalty kill if they intend to win tonight. In addition to this, the Leafs need to realize that a hockey game consists of three full periods, and that the first period often times sets the tone of the game. By not showing up in the first period, you often times set yourself behind, and that has been a growing and concerning trend with the Leafs this season. Last night, we saw the same behaviour with the same results. Tonight, the Leafs need to reverse this trend. They need to show up at the first blow of the whistle and get on the Senators. The Leafs need to be a pain in Elliott’s behind all night. He tends to have a difficult time against the Leafs, so the Leafs need to take advantage of this. If they get to Elliott, play a full three periods, and improve their specialty teams, the Leafs should take tonight’s game.
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