On the morning of Friday 14 March, the Toronto Maple Leafs had 80 points in 68 games and were second in the Atlantic division, nine points clear of the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot, although the Red Wings had three games in hand. The Ottawa Senators had 68 points in 65 games and were five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers who held the last wildcard spot. The Leafs had just completed a 2-1-0 trip in California while the Senators had come from 3-0 back to earn a point against Nashville before losing in overtime. The Leafs would go on to lose eight straight in regulation while the Senators blew a three-goal lead in the final four minutes against Montreal and would lose four games in a row in regulation after that.
The Leafs kept tumbling, while the Senators turned it around after it was too late going 7-2-1 in the 10 games following that 0-4-2 run. So here we are, the Senators and Maple Leafs are both on 84 points with Ottawa having played one fewer game. Both teams were eliminated on the same night this past Tuesday and have the exact same number of points as well as the same number of non-shootout wins, but they have had remarkably different paths to get here.
Mika Zibanejad won't play due to a mystery illness/injury. Jean-Gabriel Pageau will likely play in his place. Craig Anderson will start. Here are the likely lines:
MacArthur - Turris - Stone
Greening - Smith - Neil
Michalek - Spezza - Hemsky
Hoffman - Pageau - Condra
Methot - Karlsson
Phillips - Ceci
Wiercioch - Gryba
Some notes for tonight:
- Erik Karlsson needs three points in the last two games to become the first defeneceman since Brian Leetch to get 75+ points twice. Leetch along with Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin are the only defencemen to get 75+ points twice by age 23. Karlsson, Leetch, Orr, Coffey, Potvin and Bourque are the only to get 70+ points twice by age 23.
- It has really been a spectacular season for Karlsson by all accounts. It is too bad Don Brennan and those of his ilk question his value, but for the most part fans know how lucky we are to have him on our team. He's the greatest player to ever play for this team and likely what gives most of us hope going into the future.
- Since the 2005-2006 Washington Capitals allowed 35.1 shots/game, the only team to allow more shots than the 2013-2014 Ottawa Senators are the 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs.
- After being in a playoff spot starting the season 1-0-2, Ottawa has only been in a playoff spot for one day in November and one day in January.
- Whatever you may think of Jason Spezza and whether he may get traded or not, it would be nice to see the fans (the Ottawa portion anyway) give him a nice standing ovation or start a Spezza chant. There is the distinct possibility that this could be his last game in Ottawa as a Senator.
- Spezza has alluded to the fact that the team has struggled and he expects lots of changes. Whether that includes himself or not, there are a lot of decisions to be made with contracts expiring over the next season keeping the dreaded internal budget in mind.
- Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris have the chance of hitting 60 points if they can get hot over the final two games. Turris needs four points while MacArthur needs five.