The Leafs will start the season on the road against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have a new Head Coach in Guy Boucher, which means there will be some changes in the Senators style of play from last season. Ottawa proved that they can put the puck in the net last year by scoring 230 goals, which was the ninth most in the league. The problem for the Senators last year was keeping the puck out of its own net as they gave up 241 goals, which was the fifth most in the league. The young kids proved last season that they can score, and the additions of Derick Brassard and Chris Kelly should help to balance out the lines even more.
The question marks for the Senators are their weak defense corps and their goaltending. The defense corps will be relying a lot on Dion Phaneuf and Erik Karlsson, who are expected to play a lot of minutes. Beyond those two veterans the Senators’ defensive corps is thin so they will allow a lot of shots and chances, which is where Craig Anderson comes into the picture. Anderson needs to have a bounce back year and make the routine saves for this team. The Senators will be looking to win the home opener so this won’t be an easy game for the Leafs.
Toronto needs to be smart with the puck and not turn it over in its own zone because the Senators have some forwards that can capitalize on turnovers and mental mistakes. If the Leafs can get the first goal then they’d take the home crowd out of the game right away. The Maple Leafs need to establish the forecheck early and take advantage of the weak defensive corps of the Senators, if they want to pull out the win. Finally, Toronto needs to get some pucks toward Anderson and test him early and often especially with traffic in front of the net.
The Maple Leafs home opener is Saturday night against division rival Boston Bruins. The Bruins fell apart down the stretch last year and missed the playoffs. There was talk about possibly changing coaches, but that didn’t happen. Claude Julien will look to get the Bruins back into the postseason this year. Boston needed to upgrade the defense and really couldn’t get anything done there in the offseason. The Bruins still have a balanced lineup and have added David Backes, Dominic Moore and Riley Nash up front. They should be able to put the puck in the net, but Tuukka Rask will need to have a better season than he did last year.
The Bruins still have the dynamic duo of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who have great chemistry and can both rack up some points. If the Leafs want to win the game or keep it close then they’ll need to find a way to keep those two off the score sheet. They’ll also need to put pressure on the defense and force turnovers in the offensive zone. Toronto should get some traffic in front of Rask and test him early and often to see if they can get an early goal or two.