Who To Cheer For: March 21
A look at tonight's games and how they impact the Sens.
Tonight the Senators play the Maple Leafs in the latest installment of the Battle of Ontario. It's kind of a tough situation for the Sens. On the one hand, the BoO brings back some great memories. Daniel Alfredsson pretending to toss his stick into the stands to mock Mats Sundin. Alfie boarding Darcy Tucker, then scoring the game-winning goal. Regular season domination for several years. On the other hand, the big memories are the worst. Patrick Lalime letting in two softies to Joe Nieuwendyk, spelling the end of both Lalime's and coach Jacques Martin's eras in Ottawa. Losing four playoff series. Sens fans can agree that the Leafs got the better of the Sens when it mattered.
In recent years, things have calmed down. Gone are the games of 163 PIMs. The Leafs have been through a decade of mediocrity, while the Sens have been pretty poor the last six years. No playoff meetings in 11 years has also affected things. Lots of Sens fans hate the Canadiens and the Penguins more now because of recent playoff meetings. Still, the battle of Ontario holds a significant place in modern Sens' lore, and tonight should be fun to watch, even if the playoff implications will make it stressful. Just remember, whatever happens, the Leafs are in a much bigger mess as a franchise than the Sens.
Where the Sens stand
As of Friday night, Sports Club Stats puts the Sens at a 50.8% chance of making the playoffs, and HockeyStats puts them at 42.6%. The Red Wings losing last night moved the Sens up 0.4%, even though the likelihood that Ottawa catches Detroit is very minimal. They may have a game in hand on the Bruins, but the Bruins hold the ROW tiebreaker so the Sens don't control their own fate right now.
A win tonight will help the Sens a bit (up 5.5% according to Sports Club Stats), but a loss will really hurt them, dropping 14.5%. It's a reminder that though the Sens won the big game on Thursday, they're hardly in the clear. It's still an uphill battle.
Tonight's games that matter
Washington Capitals at Winnipeg Jets
Just like the Caps' game against the Wild, this is another game between two teams fighting for their playoff lives. The Jets will be a little more desperate, and here's hoping that works out in the Sens' favour.
Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers
The Fancy Cats are chasing the Sens, but the Sens need the Bruins to lose for any hope of making the playoffs. The Panthers play them two more times before the end of the season, and it would be great if the Panthers won all three meetings. Besides, cheering for the Panthers is easy when they don't employ guys like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic.
San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens
Go Habs Go! All the way to a first-round matchup with the Sens! The Sharks may have beat the Leafs, but there's one real question facing that team: who's their captain?
Pittsburgh Penguins at Arizona Coyotes
The Penguins losing increases the odds slightly of the Sens reaching them, but more importantly helps out all us Sens fans who don't like watching the Pens win. The only problem is that if the 'Yotes win, the odds of Connor McDavid ending up in Buffalo go up. Personally, I'd rather see the wunderkid on the other side of the continent.
New York Islanders at New Jersey Devils
An Isles loss would help make sure the Sens don't mean them in the first round.
New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
As much as I don't want to meet the Isles in the first round, I even more don't want to meet the Rangers. They are shaping up to be right up there with Tampa Bay for the cream of the East. For that reason, I'd like to see them lose.