Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators Head-to-Toe Breakdown
The Senators are dealing with some unfortunate circumstances with the recent injuries to their best forward Jason Spezza and their best defenseman Erik Karlsson. There is doom and gloom looming in the nation's capital as both players are lost for the majority, if not all, of the rest of the regular season.
The Senators organization has compounded this adversity by issuing an ill-advised email out to their season ticket holders advising them to not resell their tickets to the general public in an attempt to keep away opposing teams fans.
The Leafs roll into town at the opportune time and need to bounce back from a listless effort in against Carolina on Thursday night. The two teams are currently tied for fifth place in the eastern conference with 16 points.
Here is a head-to-toe breakdown heading into tomorrow night's action.
With Jason Spezza out of the Senators lineup, the Leafs have the best skill forward on the two rosters with Phil Kessel, even though the speedy winger has not been firing on all cylinders this year.
The early-season stats have Nazem Kadri leading the Leafs in scoring with 12 points, and James van Riemsdyk leading them in goals with eight.
Kyle Turris has matched Kadri with 11 points at the top of the Senators roster. Only four of Turris' 11 points are goals, and that ties him with Jim O'Brien for the team lead. Defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the team with six goals.
The Leafs have a considerable edge in offensive depth, as four of their forwards sit with 10 points or more and two more sitting right behind.
Turris is the only forward with double-digit points, and that gives the Leafs' forwards the decided edge.
With Erik Karlsson in the lineup prior to this week, the Senators win this category hands down. He is simply that good.
Not only is he one of the most dangerous players on the attack, he is huge in skating the puck or passing the puck out of impending danger in the Senators zone.
The Senators are ranked fourth overall in goals against, and while Craig Anderson gets most of the credit for that thus far, the defense can hang their heads high.
Out of the six regulars on the Senators defense, including Karlsson, only Chris Phillips is a minus player, and even that is deceiving as he plays against the top forwards every night.
Thursday night aside, the Leafs have improved their defensive coverage and sit right in the middle of the 30-team pack to this point in the season at 15th overall. After loading up the minutes on first pair Dion Phaneuf and Mike Kostka early in the year, they have spread things out recently and improved their fortunes because of it.
Phaneuf and Kostka have big minuses beside their names, but the rest of the regulars are all above water.
The loss of Karlsson may shift this power, but this one has to go to the Sens.
Craig Anderson has been the early favorite for the Vezina trophy so far this season. All indications are he will get the start tomorrow night.
The Leafs number one goalie James Reimer is out with a knee injury, and Ben Scrivens has been hot and cold this year. Jussi Rynnas may get the net tomorrow night, but it makes no difference here.
Ottawa is in better position here, sitting at 18th in the league at 17.65 percent, propelled mostly by Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar's skill on the back end.
Karlsson leads the team with two power-play goals, and Gonchar is tied with all the rest with one.
The Leafs have been just short of awful with the man advantage this year, especially on the five on three. They sit 24th overall at 14.93 percent and have been relying on Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel to deliver, and both have struggled to find the mark.
They have improved in the last few games with more movement, and James van Riemsdyk has been a very good presence in front of the net.
Again, the loss of Karlsson throws this comparison up in the air. He is simply that good, but you have to respect the numbers so far.
They say that your goaltender is your best penalty killer, and Anderson fits the bill here.
His quality this year has led the Senators to third overall on the penalty kill with an 89.29 percent success rate. They also have a short-handed goal this year by, you guessed it, Erik Karlsson.
The Leafs have struggled on the penalty kill for a few years now, and this year hasn't been much better. They are 21st overall and only have a 78.26 percent success rate and with Reimer out of the lineup, chances are it won't be better any time soon.
Randy Carlyle has come in and changed the culture and defensive scheme of the Leafs, and the players are fully buying in so far this year.
His approach has been a breath of fresh air for many of the young players on the Leafs roster.
It is pretty clear that he has become the face and leader of the team in the short time he has been there, and it has paid immediate dividends.
Paul MacLean went through a similar change last year with the Senators, and we know how much that meant to the surprise success of the Senators last year.
The foundation is set, and this year seems to be business as usual between MacLean and his group. He is quite simply one of the best coaches in the league.
Even though these two teams are tied in the standings early in this season, the Senators get the edge in four of six key categories in the breakdown.
The large gap between the special teams could be the telling tale, but all this must be taken with a grain of salt now that Erik Karlsson is out of the Senators lineup.
I was reluctant to do so, but the loss of Karlsson could conceivably tip every category except goaltending in the Leafs favor heading into tomorrow night.
The Leafs are always ready at home on CBC on Saturday night, and this battle of Ontario should be a nice kick off to the season series.
Prediction: Senators win 2-1 in a shootout
Dwight Wakabayashi is a contributor to Bleacher Report NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and a Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report UFC.
Follow him on Twitter at wakafightermma
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