We have to face reality, Sens fans: the Maple Leafs might actually make the playoffs this season. They are far from a lock, but they will be in the mix. And because of the new playoff format, there’s a decent chance that there could be another Battle of Ontario in April.
It’s frightening, I know, but it’s a real possibility.
Coming into the season, I don’t think anyone besides Leafs fans thought that they actually had a chance at making the playoffs. Montreal, Tampa Bay, Florida, and Boston just seemed so much better making it was extremely unlikely for Toronto to have a shot. Yet here we are on January 9th and they are right in the mix thanks to a 7-2-1 run.
The scary thing is that this isn’t like Leafs teams from years past that rode high PDO’s with terrible possession numbers. Take a look at their overall numbers as of Saturday:
The Toronto Maple Leafs in graphs (playoffs spot edition)— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 7, 2017
Very strong measures across the board and break-even PDO. It's real, friends. pic.twitter.com/1nsu8YKe1m
I know Senators fans want to just brush this off and say “yeah, but the Leafs suck.”
Honestly though, they have been just as good, if not better than Ottawa so far.
Toronto has the edge in corsi, goal differential, scoring chances, expected goals, penalty kill, and power play. The only difference is that Toronto has two fewer points. They are giving up leads left and right and the defense is still quite bad, but I’m a bit worried about a team that has 6 players on pace for 50+ points.
I’m sure we have all had enough of the media fawning over Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, but they have all played exceptionally well. Matthews is on pace for 74 points, Marner for 69 and Nylander for 67. This is definitely a team that has enough fire-power to get to the playoffs.
Senators fans never want to admit that the Leafs are good, and that’s fine, I get that. But even if you think they’re playing over their heads right now, you cannot deny the possibility that the Battle of Ontario V could occur this season.
If Ottawa and Toronto actually do leap-frog the Bruins and finish 2nd and 3rd in the division, I don’t even know if I would be able to watch or go on Twitter. I follow a decent amount of Leafs fans on Twitter, and it would not be fun at all if Ottawa ended up losing.
Of course, Ottawa wouldn’t be guaranteed to lose, but if they did, it would be best to avoid TV and social media for months.
You think the coverage of Toronto is bad now? Just wait until they win a playoff series against one of their rivals.
On the flip side, how nice would it be to finally beat the Leafs in the playoffs? In that case, it would feel just as good as 2013 when the Senators beat the Canadiens. There would be such a huge difference between winning and losing though, and during the series it would probably seem like life and death.
The Battle of Ontario has not truly been a “battle” since before the 2004-05 lockout, and these two upcoming games against Toronto will be the biggest games between them in years. Furthermore, if they do face each other in the playoffs, a rivalry will finally be renewed.
Fans of whatever team usually love facing their rivals, just because of how good it feels if they win. In this scenario, I get the sense that all Senators fans would just be scared because losing to the Leafs again would be embarrassing. It is almost like Ottawa would have to win, even if they came in as the underdogs.
I will say this about the potential Battle of Ontario V: firstly, my colleague Callum Fraser and his co-host Alec Brownscombe would have loads to talk about on their radio show The Battle of Ontario. Secondly, a series versus the Leafs would be wildly entertaining to outsiders.
The Leafs have the highest “pace” in the league, meaning that there would probably be tons of chances at both ends of the ice.
"Pace"— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 8, 2017
Tor running away with this. Pit, Nyi, and Dal in the next paciest group.
Van, Wpg, Stl, Det, NJ playing low-event hockey. pic.twitter.com/ZkvnIMVy3r
Plus, that doesn’t even account for some potential bad blood boiling, which is always entertaining, as the Canadiens series showed.
I definitely do not want to face Toronto in the playoffs, but if it comes to that, it could be a memorable series if Ottawa wins. If not, then it will be a long summer ruminating on another loss to Toronto.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think; would you like to see the Senators play the Leafs in the playoffs?