There are no shortage of storylines for tonight’s first Battle of Ontario game of the season, but the chief of which is Clarke MacArthur’s return to Toronto. MacArthur played three seasons with the Maple Leafs and was one of the team’s better players during that time. He was taken off the team’s second line during Randy Carlyle’s pseudo-successful 2013 season, and like Mikhail Grabovski, had some strong words for the way Carlyle handled him.
I didn’t have a relationship (with him) and not many guys do,” MacArthur told sportsnet.ca and two Ottawa-based reporters. “It’s one of those things where he runs the show there and everyone knows that and that’s the way it is.
“It’s worked for him in the past, he’s got a (Stanley) Cup from that, but at the same time there’s other ways to do things, too.”
If you’re new to The Leafs Nation, I guess it’s important to note that I was a huge fan of MacArthur (we all were!). He wasn’t the “best” Leaf at any one thing but he was the third or fourth best at almost everything. He could do it all and the Maple Leafs will miss him.
SENATORS at MAPLE LEAFS
Puck Drop: 7:00 Eastern
The Ottawa Senators dominated the Buffalo Sabres for 60 minutes Friday night and eventually got a very late goal from Erik Karlsson, set up on a beautiful pass by MacArthur. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising. The Sabres were a possession turnstile last season while the Senators pushed the play north.
What’s interesting about the Senators is how low their shooting percentage was last season and how high their save percentage was. It was generally accepted that the Senators had to really tighten up defensively without their stars like Karlsson and Jason Spezza who were injured for much of the season. Last night that certainly wasn’t the case. Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson certainly gave full value for their goaltender duel. There were a lot of odd-man rushes, and right before Karlsson’s goal, Anderson had to make a fantastic glove stop on Zemgus Girgensons from an A-1 scoring area.
Bit of a change to the lineup. Nikolai Kulemin was injured blocking a shot in practice and has been sent to injured reserve. Spencer Abbott has been recalled in his place and will be one of two Maple Leafs making his NHL debut tonight, the other being Morgan Rielly.
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Lupul – Kadri – Abbott
Raymond – Bolland – Bodie
Ashton – McClement – Orr
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Rielly – Franson
Ranger – Gardiner
I’m a little disappointed that Randy Carlyle has broken up Gardiner-Franson so soon, and I’m not sure how trusting he’ll be in that third pairing he’s put together. Paul Ranger has been a bit of an adventure in his first two games. You can give him some leeway because he’s gone a long time without playing in the NHL, but thus far he has easily the worst Corsi out of all the Leafs’ defencemen. The Leafs have been out-shot 23-39 with him on the ice and the Philadelphia Flyers frequently attacked him when gaining the zone in the Leafs’ last time out.
Again via dailyfaceoff:
Michalek – Spezza – Ryan
Conacher – Turris – MacArthur
Smith – Pageau – Neil
Greening – Condra – Kassian
Methot – Karlsson
Cowen – Wiercioch
Phillips – Corvo
The change from yesterday is Matt Kassian coming in for Stephane Da Costa. Forcing teams to go with players like Colton Orr rather than skilled fourth liners is about all Colton Orr is good for, so chalk that up as a win. Last night the Senators’ first line combined for 15 shots on net, so Dion and Gunnar have their work cut out for them.
How many times will we hear about James Reimer’s record versus the Ottawa Senators. Remember, goalie-versus-team records are just a small sample. You may as well be better off analyzing Reimer’s performance the night after eating spaghetti during the full moon. It simply isn’t predictive of the future. We certainly saw enough highlights of Jonathan Bernier’s rough six-goals against outing against Philadelphia on the TSN broadcast when Jonathan Bernier was laying a brick wall in the goal crease in front of our very eyes. What matters for Reimer is his 100+ games in the NHL so far, and not a small sample of 10.
The Senators are going with Craig Anderson, who saw a lot of rubber last night. Toronto and New Jersey both began their seasons with back-to-backs and split games between their goalies in each. Evidently Ottawa is doing something different. Early on in the season, it may not be an issue, but tired goaltenders have been shown to stop fewer shots in the latter half of a back-to-back than a rested goalie.
I’m leaving Leafs and Sens blank because while the Leafs generally play the Senators pretty well, Toronto was a little lost defensively against Philadelphia and it took a strong performance from Jonathan Bernier to give them the win. A carry-over of last night’s Senators game is about the worst-case scenario for Toronto, who don’t need to add to the perception that they win only because of their goaltending.