League leader in save percentage (1.000), goals against average (0.00) and Vezina Trophy front runner James Reimer looks to extend his shutout streak and lead the first placed Toronto Maple Leafs over the last placed Ottawa Senators tonight at the Air Canada Centre.
A beautiful sentence, that, and you can’t fault me when it’s true. Hell, the part about the Senators should remain accurate all season.
The rebuilding Senators began their campaign just about as you would expect – down 5-0 by the start of the third period (eventually lost 5-3). A decent start and finish for the young Sens was bookended by a comedy of errors from their more experienced blueliners as the Red Wings picked up an easy two points to start off their 2011-12 campaign.
From the bits of the game I caught, it seemed to be the Sens’ “example-setters” on the blueline (Gonchar, Phillips, Kuba, Karlsson) who were struggling most. Their youthful forward corps, particularly college signing Stephane Da Costa, looked threatening for spells and could catch a team out if they make the mistake of underestimating them. The Leafs will have to be weary of that tonight.
After practice yesterday, Ron Wilson said he expects to see the Sens take a similar look to what the Leafs saw from Habs on Thursday night. A hard-working, clog-the-neutral zone approach will again have to be combatted by crisp, clean and manageable breakout passes that enable the Leafs‘ forwards to hit the neutral zone with speed. The Leafs did a good job of making that adjustment in the second period on Thursday and really opened the game up by controlling the tempo. Putting the heat on this young Sens team with the Buds’ good team speed and forcing them into split-second decisions will almost certainly lead to turnover opportunities.
It sounds like Wilson will go with the same lineup that won the opener, with the exception of Colton Orr stepping in for Jay Rosehill on the fourth line. Is some retribution in order for a certain someone? Orr will be looking to silence any concerns that he’s lost his lustre after the Engelland TKO and season-ending Parros fight last season.
Forgetting possible throwdowns with Neil or Konopka, the Leafs’ fourth line served its purpose well with some good energy shifts when the team needed it on Thursday (particularly early on). While the speed of Brown and Lombardi was the main component, a few good hits from Rosehill played its part as well. The timing seems right to get Orr back in the lineup given the villains on the fight card, but he’ll need to play a limited liability role and chip in some physicality in the run of play too.
Ron Wilson speaks after Friday practice:
- Tim Connolly gives an update on his condition after Friday’s practice.
- Colton Orr talks about his probable season debut against the Sens.
- Mike Ulmer with an article on Mike Komisarek’s search to get his career back on track this season with the Leafs.
- Chemmy’s Negative Nancy Notebook from yesterday.
- Konopka hates the Leafs and is ready to go tonight. He says all of Ottawa hates the Leafs too. Having been around Sens fans before, the word hate may hint too strongly of passion. But it looks like The Sheriff will get his first test since Parros caught him last season.
- More on Dave Steckel’s prowess in the faceoff circle from James Mirtle. Advance stat guru Gabe Desjardins is quoted in the piece opining that it’s a greatly understated asset to a team, adding that he’d value a 60-65% guy like Steckel at $1.5-2 million a season.
- Video: Nazem Kadri back on the ice. Timetable still sits at over two weeks, and in the video above Wilson hints at some Marlies time when he returns.