Different Splash of Colour in Battle of Ontario
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.
Feature photo Courtesy NHLI via Getty Images
Colton Orr – Matt Carkner.
Tie Domi – Chris Neil.
Darcy Tucker – The entire Ottawa bench.
Yep, the Battle of Ontario has always had a colourful quality, but this time around it's of a different splash.
Gone are the days of the toe-to-toe slugfests; the who-can-put-who-first-through-the-end-boards.
Now it's who can out-skate and out-hustle and out-finesse and out-skill the other.
And it's going to be a helluva fight.
The Battle of Ontario is back on after a few years of non-engagement, largely due to the fact that what we have before us – now – are two of the more skilled teams in the National Hockey League.
Engagement No. 1 goes this coming Saturday as the visiting (and some might call: still home-team) Toronto Maple Leafs bring their legion of fans and exceptional skill to the Canadian Tire Centre.
This looks to be, easily, the most anticipated game of the young season.
The bonus for hockey fans is neither of these teams should be singing the blues about being tired.
Ottawa has Vancouver on Tuesday then New Jersey on Thursday in its home barn, before the Saturday match-up with the Buds.
Toronto has an equally breezy week, in Washington Tuesday prior to hosting Detroit Wednesday before heading to the nation's capital.
So, what to make of these two?
Ottawa has to qualify as the bigger surprise.
Senator fans were biting their nails in anticipation of a horrific start as uber-all-star Erik Karlsson sat on the sidelines recovering from foot surgery.
Thoughts of an 0-3 trek through the NHL's West crept into their thoughts to be sure.
Oddly enough, Ottawa's toughest game was against a rebuilding (somewhat) Vancouver club last Tuesday in a 3-2 shootout win.
Against Calgary on Friday, the Alberta snowstorms came early as the Senators ripped the Flames 6-0.
Supposedly a tired bunch then traveled to Edmonton Saturday only to coast to a 6-1 win.
Twelve goals in two games?
Those are Leaf-like numbers.
One thing we've learned about Toronto this season is they score more than Fonzie (. . . see kids: Fonzie was this hip character from a show in the 1970s called Happy Days . . . anyway, you get the idea).
Through their first five games, the Leafs have bagged 26 goals.
They're as adventurous as The Littlest Hobo (see kids: The Littlest Hobo was this really crappy Canadian series in the early 1980s about this ownerless dog who traveled town to town . . . anyway, you get the idea).
One thing I'll give to Ottawa in this opening tete-a-tete, they seem to be the more complete team, at this point.
Defence is key in coach Guy Boucher's system; in Toronto it's more of an afterthought. Not that Leaf coach Mike Babcock isn't trying to nail down his guys to play more responsibly, they're just not there yet.
And one thing I'll give to the Leafs – as an edge – at this point is their ability to generate offence.
Quite frankly there's not a better team at skating and creativity in the league than Toronto.
As legendary wrestling voice Jim Ross would say: This is gonna be a slobber-knocker! (See kids: Jim Ross was a . . . oh never mind)
NEWS, NOTES AND NOTIONS:
Tip of the hat to Ray Shero and the job he's done as GM of the New Jersey Devils. Since being hired about two-and-a-half years ago, the former Pittsburgh GM has completely revamped the formerly moribund Devils. Shero has added splashy Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, NCAA star defenceman Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt (among others). Head coach John Hynes has put the accent on pace and puck possession, and while it's early, this is not the same Devils franchise that put you to sleep night after night a few years ago . . . Let's not forget netminder Cory Schneider – he's been magnificent so far . . . Boy, the more I see of the Calgary Flames (which isn't much I'll admit) the more unimpressed I become. Friday's game – a 6-0 loss to Ottawa – portrayed this bunch to be a perimeter team shy about driving the net . . . Can someone explain the Jaromir Jagr signing. I just don't get the signing of a 45-year-old who can no longer keep up . . . Yes, he's still solid on puck possession but Jagr is taking valuable ice time away from a Flames team that seem(ed) intent on building around youngsters Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk and (gulp), maybe down the road, 22-year-old Curtis Lazar.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Tuesday, Oct. 17: Vancouver at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Thursday, Oct. 19: New Jersey at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday, Oct. 21: Toronto at Ottawa (7 pm)