Toronto - March 22, 2015 - The battle of Ontario was renewed Saturday night as the Maple Leafs travelled to Ottawa to take on the Senators. The atmosphere on and off the ice at Canadian Tire Centre was the best at a Leafs game in a long time, mainly because it was in Ottawa. With duelling chants of “Go Sens Go” and “Go Leafs Go” circling the arena, and a competitive chippy game on the ice, it really was a treat to watch. In the end the Leafs would fall 5-3 despite a strong push for a comeback in the second period. For the first time in weeks, Leafs’ fans got to see a competitive game featuring the blue and white. It did however feature their patented atrocious first period of play.
This is the type of game I want to see from Toronto for the remainder of the season. Playing hard, putting points on the board but still losing. They didn’t quit after the first 20 minutes and the players leading the charge weren’t the core players. Leo Komarov and Zach Sill were the most notable players last night. Sill had two fights and looked like a player who was proud to have the Maple Leaf on his chest. Meanwhile Komarov scored and continued to hit anyone who got in his way. It saddens me that Leo suffered a concussion mid season as all signs indicate he could have had a breakout season. Even with reduced numbers his offensive production is far better than most would have expected from him.
On a side note, I’m finding it hard to not be a Senators fan right now. They’re one or two players from being a solid playoff team, if their play in net isn’t just a hot streak or fluke. They’re aggressive, quick and their breakout game can be lethal. So many times against Toronto, the Sens started behind their own net, made two passes and had a scoring chance. If they can find themselves in a playoff spot come seasons end, I wouldn’t expect them to go far. The experience for them would be invaluable though. To get those young players playoff experience would be a tremendous asset for them in the coming years.
Now a quick recap of the games events. The Leafs went down 2-0 in the first after goals from Hoffman and Karlsson 3 minutes apart. Zach Sill also got in his first of 2 fights in the period. The Leafs were outshot 16 - 9 in the first and Ottawa skated circles around them. It wasn’t the worst start the Leafs have had recently, but still deplorable.
The second period was by far and away the most entertaining period of Leafs hockey recently, perhaps of 2015. The Leafs outshot the Senators 12-9 and scored 3 goals in the period. Joakim Lindstrom, Leo Komarov and Tim Erixon all beat ‘The Hamburgler’. The game was tied at 3 when Kyle Turris scored the eventual game winner on the power play with 52 seconds left in the period. A hard fought period by Toronto, with goals from an unlikely collection of players. In the end though their bad starts continue to plague them.
The third period was highlighted only by Sill’s second fight of the game and a Kyle Turris empty net goal. The final frame was mundane compared to its predecessor. The Leafs made a push but Ottawa’s forechecking was excellent and the Leafs lacked any of the finesse they displayed in the second period. Despite the loss to a division rival it was a good game. Mainly because the Leafs looked like they gave a damn. I’m fine with the team losing every game for the rest of the season so long as they look like they are trying. Actually I’d prefer that. It’s a lost season, they know it and so do we. After a lot of good players were moved at the deadline, they’re just not good and I’m sure for them it’s beyond frustrating. All I want for the Leafs is 9 more games like that. 9 more games where their play speaks for their quality of character, and not their post game interviews.
Finally it was announced that just before the game started that the Leafs had signed top NCAA prospect Casey Bailey. Bailey is 23 years old and 6’3, 200 lbs. He’s a Penn State forward who can play right wing or centre and had 40 points in 37 games this season. Bailey was the most sought after NCAA player this year. The remainder of the season will count against Bailey’s entry level contract so he will play for the big club before season’s end. A shrewd acquisition by Leafs management. If he can be a top 6 forward in the NHL this move will certainly accelerate the rebuilding process in Toronto.
Follow me on twitter, @RobMcPhee for more Leafs new and analysis.
Rob was born in Toronto's East end and has been a Maple Leaf fan his entire life. He is currently a student at York University in Toronto and is studying writing. He has always loved the blues and sports of all kind. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at email@example.com