On the eve before the Leafs go for their seventh win of the season, I’m going to do what nobody else in this country wants to do.
I’m going to talk about the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators are like Lisa Simpson: the younger, overachieving sibling that doesn’t really get the attention they deserve. I mean, if you talk to Erik Karlsson long enough, he’ll probably tell you some cool shit like he plays the saxophone or something. The Leafs are like Bart, who aside from drafting Auston Matthews (sorry, just reaching quota) haven’t done something noteworthy in well…yeah.
The Battle of Ontario really is a sibling rivalry – and no matter where these teams are in the standings – you can expect two things when these teams meet each other; an exciting game and the Canadian Tire Centre being flooded with blue Leafs jerseys.
Despite a respectable start without their captain and the fact that they SOMEHOW went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, nobody’s expecting much from the Senators this year. But we know how…er, persistent (is that the right word?) the Sens can be, so I’m just going to get this started in October:
We need a playoff series.
Instead of waiting until February to announce “oh shit, the Sens are still in it”, let’s just embrace the fact that a playoff series between these two would actually be great. The banter on Twitter would reach levels we’ve never seen before.
Here are my top-five moments in Battle of Ontario history…
Alfredsson Mocking Sundin
Leafs legend Mats Sundin was only suspended once in his career. In a game against the Nashville Predators in the 2004 season, Sundin was frustrated that his stick exploded on a slapshot and flung the shaft 15 rows up into the Air Canada Centre crowd. Sundin sat out the next game against…the Ottawa Senators.
As fate would have it (or the sticks that they used back then), Daniel Alfredsson broke his stick during that game and infuriated the Leafs bench, mocking Sundin and pretending to throw whatever was remaining of his into the crowd.
The combination of the Leafs being down 7-1 in the third at that time, the stick toss itself, and the fact that 2004 Daniel Alfredsson looked like a real life muppet had the Leafs and their fans PISSED. I think that was the exact moment Alfredsson went from “captain of the rival” to a legitimate Disney villian in just a few seconds.
Tucker and the Senators Bench
Do we really care about why he did it? Do any of you remember why?
Sure, a 23-year-old Chris Neil may have spit on Darcy Tucker, but that important here? I mean, everything about it was perfect: Tucker jumping in, the reaction by the Senators bench, the Star Wars music in the background for some reason. It was iconic.
Tucker and Tie Domi ended up getting a combined eight games for their antics. The image of those two isn’t only legendary because it was a great moment, it’s the reaction of Leafs fans LITERALLY WHENEVER ANYBODY TALKS ABOUT AUSTON MATTHEWS (sorry again).
Alfredsson’s hit on Tucker in Game 5
Sure, this was a dirty hit, but if it had been Sundin on Chris Neil, I would still have a 24 hour loop of it playing on all the screens I own seven days a week.
Okay I may have said that Alfredsson was just the captain of the rival team before the stick throwing incident, but this happened in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, two years before Mats broke his stick. Not only did Alfredsson hit Tucker from behind, he scored seconds later. In the third period. Of a tie game. The Senators later added an empty netter and went back to Ottawa up 3-2.
Of course, it was a Leafs-Senators playoff series in the early 2000s so the Leafs ended up winning the series four days later in Toronto, but you know.
Auston Matthews’ NHL Debut
As somebody that writes in Toronto, I’m contractually obligated to mention Auston Matthews four times a day.
Auston Matthews was a first overall pick playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs going into his first NHL game. He could have finished the game with an assist and people would have lost their minds.
Matthews did better than that, scoring all four goals in a 5-4 overtime loss.
“But Richard, they lost the game!”
This was Matthews’ breakout party in game one of his NHL career. He arrived on the scene and potted four in a rookie season in which he scored 40 goals. Since the 2005 lockout, only he and Alex Ovechkin scored 40 or more as a rookie. This was more about than just one game. This was a fanbase that was notorious for getting too excited finally getting something to look forward to.
Welcome to the Auston Matthews era, Toronto.
Alfredsson Guarantees Series Win
After falling behind 3-2 in the first round in 2004, Daniel Alfredsson guaranteed to win Game 6 in Ottawa and then Game 7 in Toronto. The Senators made good on the promise in Game 6 – winning on the back of a Mike Fisher goal in 2OT to set up the do or die game two days later.
Now this story isn’t funny because of Daniel Alfredsson. Rather, it’s funny because what happened in Game 7. Chad Kilger opened the scoring 7 minutes in and then…Patrick Lalime happened. Lalime allowed two goals that I’m sure he still sees in his sleep, both on pretty much the same angle to Joe Nieuwendyk. The Leafs jumped ahead 3-0 and ended up taking the game 4-1. Lalime never suited up for the Senators again and head coach Jaques Martin was fired two days later.
If you have any issues with the moments I’ve picked or the order they’re in, please remember to never @ me. Go Leafs!