Archive for January, 2012
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
It’s a very tough call to judge whether the rivalry is real or not, or a media creation when it comes to the Senators and Maple Leafs.
Really — what’s been memorable post-lockout between the Sens and Leafs? I’ll go off the top of my head:
1. Colton Orr usually fights Matt Carkner – that won’t happen tonight.
2. Colton Orr usually wins a fight against Matt Carkner – that also won’t happen tonight.
3. Mark Bell destroyed Daniel Alfredsson with a fantastic hit near the end of the 2007-08 season. It was Bell’s magical moment as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
4. Naturally, every game in Kanata features a very strong presence of Leafs fans, far more so than when the Montreal Canadiens play in Ottawa.
Given all this, and the fact neither team has made the playoffs in the same season since the Leafs squeaked past Ottawa in seven games in their last playoff round win in April 2004, I’m not quite sure what’s there. I feel like it’s a more passive atmosphere in all honesty than when Boston and Montreal visit to the Air Canada Centre. Montreal IS Montreal, obviously, regardless of whether they’re struggling right now or not — it’s THEY, not the Maple Leafs, that have the recent tradition of excellence.
Saying that, since a Stanley Cup win in 1993 that I think history would denote as “somewhat” fluky, Toronto’s won nine playoff series, Montreal only six — including the two they won two seasons ago. Maybe I wasn’t living in Ontario for the height of the battles, the bad blood, the playoff rivalries, but without a grand tradition like the Canadiens or Bruins have, I never quite bought into the “Battle Of Ontario” being more than a somewhat concocted rivalry.
I also think the city would be electrified by a Bruins/Leafs or Rangers/Leafs playoff series — and though Toronto, if it could at all happen, might have better odds advancing against Ottawa, I think it wouldn’t inspire the same sense of energy about it. Don’t get me wrong, fans here would be satisfied with a playoff series against Colorado College.
But the Senators aren’t simply having a “good start” to the season, it is a good SEASON, period. I’m curious to see how Kyle Turris plays tonight for Ottawa, a player the Leafs certainly kicked the tires on quite significantly and a player who might be a fixture there for years to come.
It’s also a chance for James Reimer to reassert himself as what most of us know him to be — the Maple Leafs “preferred” choice in net. Younger, more North American experience, more significant moments in a Leafs uniform already in thirteen months than Jonas Gustavsson (sometimes through no fault of his one) has been able to put together in three seasons. Gustavsson’s impressed me, sure, but I really do believe the Leafs have been set up to base success around Reimer in net, leaving Gustavsson’s future very much up in the air. There’s not a single starter’s gig that he’ll be able to capture in the offseason, and the Leafs will have to decide whether they need to go with a more veteran backup presence or bring him back.
What do you think? Sens games in Toronto still light your fire? More than ANY other team?