Last night’s contentious battle between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens had a certain tension to it that only comes with two teams that really don’t like each other. The bad blood was flowing before the puck was even dropped. Yes, it’s true that neither team had anything much to play for but you wouldn’t have known it from the atmosphere at the Canadian Tire Centre. The whole thing made me a certain kind of nostalgic, and got me thinking: who are the Sens’ rivals right now? Rivalries are usually built on the back of repeated play-off run-ins, and it’s been a few years since the Sens were in the post-season. There’s also a geographical element — it’s hard to hate the Seattle Kraken, for instance. Nonetheless, let’s a take a crack at answering the question of just how are the Sens’ biggest rivals:
The Case for the Habs:
The last time the Sens and the Habs battled in the play-offs was 2015, and virtually the entire roster of both teams has turned over since then, so the dislike between the two teams stems from run-of-the-mill regular pettiness. After playing Montreal so many times last season as part of the North Division, it didn’t seem like the two squads were fond of each other — but clearly things have been taken to the next level this season in light of the whole Brendan Gallagher - Tim Stützle affair. It’s the perfect fodder for stoke fan passions as both sides have villains: Gallagher for being the Rat Prince and Stützle for being too good at hockey. The only thing holding this back from being a slam dunk in the lack of recent play-off encounters but both are building young cores that should expect to face each other down for years to come. This one could get a lot spicier.
The Case for the Leafs:
The case for the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Sens’ biggest rivals is basically the legacy of the two franchises and the ever-present fan animosity as Ottawa and Toronto aren’t really at the same place on the ice. The Leafs have built an elite team (that keeps choking in the play-offs), while the Sens are struggling to make it back to the post-season. On the other hand, Ottawa’s miraculous come back from 5-1 down is probably their signature win of the last five seasons. The rivalry with Toronto has the greatest potential, but to reach the top spot the two squads will likely need to meet in the post-season again.
The Case for the Bruins:
This one is a bit of a stretch, but the Sens have somewhat recent play-off animosity with the Boston Bruins (2017) and there’s been a fair amount of feistiness this season involving the Rat King himself, Brad Marchand. Boston’s a long way from Ottawa so the geographical component isn’t quite there but the repeated encounters in division play through the years has certainly turned up the heat.
Those are the three teams that came to mind when I sat down to write this piece, but if you’ve got another nominee then let’s hear about in the comments below!
Who are the Ottawa Senators’ Biggest Rivals?
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Other (Comments below!)