The “Battle for Ottawa” resumes tonight as the Leafs welcome their provincial rivals to the Air Canada Centre. Both teams currently have 28 points and sit in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. A history of bad blood, however, separates them. Expect fireworks when the game starts at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) James Reimer will make his third consecutive start after returning from injury. He secured wins in the first two games and looked especially sharp in Monday’s 4-2 defeat of the New Jersey Devils. Reimer currently stands at 8-3-0 on the season with a .923 save percentage and 2.43 goals against average. The Leafs play again tomorrow and while Ben Scrivens’ solid play this season (6-6-0, .923 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average) suggests he’ll get the start in that game, Reimer could put a wrench into things by stealing the show tonight. Is he up to the challenge?
Reimer surrendered four goals on 37 shots, but it was really him who kept the Leafs in the game, especially after they got outshot 18-4 in the final frame. That’s three wins in three games for Reimer!
2) In light of all their injuries, the young goaltending tandem of Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have kept the Senators in the mix of things. Bishop will get the start tonight and he carries some impressive stats of his own: 4-3-0, .938 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average. Having said this, the Leafs have plenty of offence so the Senators will need Bishop to play at his best if they hope to win. Who reigns supreme: Bishop or the Leafs?
Bishop was torched for four goals on 21 shots. That’ll distort his stats a bit.
3) Welcome to the Kadri Show: Nazem Kadri has exploded for 4 goals in his last two games. He now leads the team in points (23 points in 23 games or point-per-game-elite-player status) and has helped compensate for the ongoing offensive struggles of Phil Kessel. Can Kadri continue to lead the Leafs’ dynamic offence?
Kadri notched another goal, but it was really Phil Kessel who stole the offensive show! He collected two points (1 goal, 2 assists) on the night.
4) The “Battle for Ottawa” has been surprisingly tame so far this season. There has been a notable absence of fights. Although Colton Orr and Chris Neil exchanged words last game, nothing materialized. Do we finally see some energy in one of hockey’s premiere matchups?
Orr and Neil exchanged some minor punches, but it was really the early fight between Frazer McLaren and David Dziurzynski that really set the tone. Let’s hope a speedy recovery for Dziurzynski.
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