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Ottawa Senators

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Team Records: Leafs – 2-0-0 vs. Senators – 1-0-0
2012-13 Season Series: 4-1 Leafs
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Morgan Rielly makes his regular season debut in the Leafs home opener, while James Reimer looks to continue his dominance over the Leafs’ provincial rival in the first edition of the 2013-14 of the Battle of Ontario season series.

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Morgan Rielly

From the Official Site:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Monday the schedule for the 2013 Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario. This year, Maple Leafs’ prospects will compete in three games at Budweiser Gardens beginning Thursday, September 5 versus rookie teams from the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.

“The Maple Leafs are thrilled to return to a great hockey city like London for the annual Rookie Tournament,” said Leafs Senior Vice-President and General Manager David Nonis. “It’s a great opportunity for us to evaluate the players in our system against their peers from other NHL clubs.”

Tickets for the 2013 Rookie Tournament officially go on sale Saturday, June 8 at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Budweiser Gardens Box Office, by phone at (866) 455-2849 or online at www.budweisergardens.com. Ticket prices for the evening games are Adults – $19.25 and Students/Seniors/Kids – $14.25. Prices for the afternoon games are Adults – $16.75 and Students/Seniors/Kids – $11.75. Additionally this year, Full Day Passes will also be offered at $26.00 for Adults and $21.00 for Students/Seniors/Kids.

Toronto, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Chicago’s 2013 Rookie Tournament rosters will be announced at a later date.

2013 Rookie Tournament Schedule

DATE                     TIME                       EVENT                      LOCATION
Thur. Sept. 5         2:00 PM            Pitt vs. Ott                       Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Chi vs. Tor                       Budweiser Gardens
Fri. Sept. 6             T.B.A.                Practice                          Budweiser Gardens
Sat. Sept. 7           2:00 PM            Ott vs. Chi                       Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Tor vs. Pitt                       Budweiser Gardens
Sun. Sept. 8          2:00 PM           Chi vs. Pitt                        Budweiser Gardens
7:00 PM            Tor vs. Ott                        Budweiser Gardens

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Leafs vs Sens

Last 10: Toronto 4-2-4; Ottawa 7-1-2

The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to earn at least a point in an eighth straight game Saturday night as they visit the Ottawa Senators, who have been on a decent run of their own.

In what is the most meaningful “Battle of Ontario” in the last few years, it’s more than just pride on the line; it’s home-ice advantage and two teams sizing each other up as potential first-round matchups. Toronto is trying on their new look as a playoff team for the first time in 8 years and Ottawa is revelling in their depth as a team that has been able to stave off huge injuries to Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Chris Anderson with seemingly no drop-off in performance.

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WOW. What a turn of events in the Iginla sweepstakes. Mid-way through writing this piece, I paused to check for updates on Twitter and in an instant, Iginla had gone from a Bruin to a Penguin. Going back the other way to Calgary are college prospects Kenneth Agostino (20, LW), Ben Hanowski (22, LW), and Pittsburgh’s 2013 1st-round draft pick. From the outset, Feaster isn’t getting much credit for the return he’s getting but, it appears that Pittsburgh was Iginla’s call. Per Elliote Friedman:

When faced with such a tectonic move, my first instinct is to take a breath and look at it from 30,000 feet – to try and take the broad level view. I asked myself, how does this change the competitive landscape of the East Conference? How does this move affect the Leafs? Who are the winners and losers of the trade? Will Iginila thrive under Dan Bylsma’s system? Where does Iginila fit in the line-up, and what of his role? At the surface level, the Pens’ active roster stays intact and get an infusion of leadership, class, skill, and toughness. Ray Shero is really going all-in here and the proposition of lining up Crosby and Iginla is a terrifying proposition, just ask Ryan Miller. In the coming days, I’m sure these questions will be addressed by the mainstream media and by members of the blogosphere.

This is a different kind of piece.

Before you read on, I submit this for your consideration:

For those of you who are unable to watch the video, it contains a segment from the Colbert Report, and it features a 13-minute montage of blatant Bostonian hypocrisy.

As I’m sure many Leaf fans were when they heard that Iginla was headed to Boston, I experienced some strong mixed-emotions. On the one hand, here you have a player who epitomizes class and leadership. On the other hand, he was headed to a hypocritical and dirty organization like Boston. If what Friedman said is true, then good on Jarome. Now, I am not privy to his decision-making process but I sure hope he considered the collective character of the organizations he was looking to join, along with, ultimately, the prospects of winning a Stanley Cup.

Iginla’s press conference is set for 10:30am (MT) and certainly lends itself to a tearful farewell. He has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 seasons and became the city’s beloved son. The loyalty he showed the Flames is quite remarkable, even despite the lack of talent and recent managerial gaffes. Adam Proteau, from The Hockey News, puts it best:

In the end, Jarome Iginla deserved better than Boston, and I believe he made the right decision. As a hockey fan, I wish Jarome nothing but success and the best of luck in Pittsburgh.

Just a quick note on the Leafs.

Much has been made of the team’s relative success during the past 5 games (3-0-2) and many cited the home-and-home series with Boston as a test of sorts. Needless to say, the Leafs get more than a passing grade for their effort and surely surprised a lot of people. However, looking forward, I would argue that the next 6 games might be even more important than the past 5.

Including tonight’s bout against the Hurricanes (32pts -10th), the Leafs will face-off against the Senators (42 pts – 5th), Flyers (28 pts – 14th), and Devils (37 pts – 7th) once, and the Rangers (35 pts – 8th) twice. Essentially, 5 of the next 6 games will be against teams that are either in the race, or are within striking distance of the Leafs. Herein lies a crucial opportunity for the Leafs to expand their lead over lesser teams. If they can come out of the next 6 games with at least 8 points, for a total of 48 points, it sets them up nicely for the final 8 games of the season.

Thursday Morning Links

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.

The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.

The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.

If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for.  The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.

So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.

It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.

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Tuesday Morning Leafs Links…

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Tickets: Are you watching or going to tonight’s Leafs game? RSVP here and be entered to win $200 in free tickets.

We’re at the half way point and the Leafs are in great shape at 15-9-0, sitting in fifth in the East with 30 points. .500 hockey from here on in, while not the best way to enter the playoffs, gets the Leafs back to the post-season.

The Leafs recent form, on paper, has also been dandy, with three wins on the trot. On one hand you’re happy with those final results, with the team finding different ways to win whether coming from behind or holding on for dear life, on the other you’re concerned with the significant portions of game in which the Leafs have been outplayed, outpossessed and outchanced.

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The parallels between these two provincial rivals goes deeper than their matching point totals through 23 games. Both teams are getting good goaltending, sitting top 5 in team save percentage (Senators are 1st at 0.945), despite rotating goalies due to injury, inexperience on the backend and a lot of shots allowed (Leafs – 25th, Senators – 29th). Like the Leafs with Kostka, Holzer and Fraser, the Senators have been giving the inexperienced likes of Eric Gryba, Andre Benoit and Peter Wiercioch significant minutes and so far are hanging in the playoff picture with a goals against total in the top 10 league wide.

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators

With notes from NHL.com

Ottawa Senators (7-5-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (8-6-0)

TV: CBC

Last 10: Ottawa 4-4-2; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series: This is the first of five matchups this season between these Northeast Division rivals, who will play each other twice in the next week. The teams tied the Battle of Ontario last season, splitting the six-game season series.

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Photo Credit: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

The Flyers – Rangers game is available on TSN. 12:30 p.m. start. Carolina – Buffalo face off at 5 p.m., check back for a stream link.

On the eve of the Leafs meeting with the Ottawa Senators, James Reimer was named the NHL’s top rookie for the month of March in what has been a whirlwind season for the recently turned 23-year old goaltender. After making his first career start on January 1st against the Senators in Ottawa, Reimer returned yesterday in hopes of recording his 20th win of the season in only his 34th career game. Not bad for a former fourth round pick who began the season as a Toronto Marlie.

With an impressive 20-8-4 record, including a 2.54 goals against average and 0.922 save percentage, Reimer has earned his stay as a starting NHL goaltender. Not only is he capable of playing in the pressure packed market in Toronto, but he is embracing the spotlight with his calm and collected attitude. Again last night Reimer made the saves that mattered and showed no signs of being fazed after a quickfire double from Ottawa Senators erased a 2-0 lead.

Barring a meltdown from either the eighth place New York Rangers or ninth place Carolina Hurricanes, the Leafs will finish out of the post season for a sixth consecutive season. Despite that likely result, there is a long list of reasons why this team has what it takes to ride back to the glory land next year.

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Photo Credit: Vince Talotta/Torstar News Service

The sixth and final chapter of this season’s Battle of Ontario gets underway tonight in another must-win game for the Leafs, who are five points back of the eighth place New York Rangers with four games left on the schedule. The 14th place Ottawa Senators will look to play a spoiler role against their arch rival in hopes of putting an end to their remaining playoff aspirations. Although the Senators have struggled as of late, they have managed to stay competitive in games due to the impressive goaltending display from Craig Anderson, who was recently re-signed by the team to a four year contract. The playoff chances may be remote, but the last way we want them put to rest is at the hands of the Senators.

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The winless Ottawa Senators visit the undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the ACC. With a victory this evening, the Leafs would have their best start to a season since ’99-00 when they won three straight out of the gate. It’s just two games, but the symbolism of a return to the pre-lockout days – let alone a chance to put the Sens at 0-2 and gain early points on another division rival – would be nothing but sweet.

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Perhaps the best part about Nazem Kadri’s two-goal, three-point performance last night against the Ottawa Senators is that he can start the season with the Toronto Marlies with his head held high. Certainly, Leafs fans, management and Kadri alike will hope he can relay last night’s performance on the wing into another strong showing against Detroit on Friday and make a case for a place in the big Leafs’ top six for the October 7th date with the Habs. But should Kadri’s play return to the form he exhibited in previous preseason showings – by no means terrible, but not as impressive as it will take – he can take solace and confidence in last night’s achievements and start off on the right foot at the Ricoh.

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The Leafs head to the capital tonight to take on their bitter provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators, for the third time in seven preseason games.

Tonight’s game figures to be the last chance for players on the bubble, including highly-touted Nazem Kadri, to make a lasting impression. When asked about these players, head coach Ron Wilson was emphatic:

“When the puck drops on the first day, you better be ready to go. No tip-toeing around. No ‘oh, the water’s cold, I’ll wait until it warms up a bit’. Nope, you’re diving in and the guys who didn’t, as [Leafs' GM Brian Burke] said, they’re waiting by the bus stop. Well, they missed it, the bus already left. Now their job is running down the road hoping they can get on.” (via)

With the pre-season set to end with a home-and-home against Detroit to open the month of October, the general sentiment is the Leafs will use a roster for those games comprised of the players who are expected be with the NHL club on opening night. For Nazem Kadri, John Mitchell, Jay Rosehill and Mike Zigomanis, tonight (or by a slim chance the first of the two Detroit games) may be their last shot.

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An intriguing top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel will feature in tonight’s rematch with the Flyers following the Leafs’ 11-round shootout win over Philadelphia last night at the John Lebatt Centre in London. The trio is the most skilled iteration of forwards the Leafs’ roster has to offer, and combined with Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle on the blueline (who will also dress) represent an interesting potential powerplay option for coach Wilson. The results with the man advantage tonight, then, will be well worth monitoring.

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Be sure to check out Junior’s thoughts from tonight’s tilt.
Hey, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it sucks to lose 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators.  Any day of the year, any type of game.  There will undoubtedly be at least one mainstream media headline out there along the lines of: “Leafs back to losing ways”.  But a step back will tell us this is the first of a whopping nine exhibition matches Toronto will be playing and a ton can (and probably will) change in the next two weeks.

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Image c/o J.P. Nikota / PensionPlanPuppets.com

“Being a kid growing up just outside Toronto, you always want to play for your team you watched growing up, and Toronto’s my team.”

It was one of the last things Andrew Engelage said after a lengthy discussion at the Ricoh Coliseum, but it definitely resonated the loudest.

There’s nothing quite like the story of the home-grown athlete. Everyone likes asking Oakville’s John Mitchell what it’s like to put on the Leafs sweater every day, or trying to find some way to relate to Jesse Blacker’s being drafted by his local club. But when adversity is thrown into the mix, when a player has to go through some degree of hardship to make it to not only the level he wants to be, but for the team he wants to play for, that’s when a story becomes a best seller.

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The following is live in game, up to the minute coverage of the rookie tournament game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators.  Remember to refresh the page for the latest updates.  Remember also to check out my Twitter for notes and pictures