Battle of Ontario features a first
OTTAWA -- A provincial rivalry entering its 25th season, The Battle of Ontario will feature, for the first time, an Anderson vs. Andersen goaltending showdown when the NHL season opens Wednesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Starting for the Ottawa Senators will be Craig Anderson, who faced more shots than any goaltender other than the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist in 2016-17 and who, in his first game as a Senator on Feb. 19, 2011, made 47 saves in a 1-0 victory over Toronto at Air Canada Centre.
Making his debut for the Maple Leafs will be Frederik Andersen, who was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks last June and is now being counted on to give Toronto the consistent puck stopping it has lacked for years.
Both goalies hope to lead their respective teams back to the playoffs, which have been held without Ottawa for two of the last three years and without Toronto for all but one spring since 2004.
"That's my goal, to get back there," Frederik Andersen, who played in 28 playoff games for the Ducks over the last three springs, told the Toronto Sun on Tuesday. "From past experience, I know it takes a lot of work. Last year (the Ducks) had a tough start and realized you just don't get there automatically, no matter how good your team is. We have to get that winning culture (in Toronto). It's a good feeling to have when you don't settle for less."
Pumping fresh oxygen into Toronto's hopes is center Auston Matthews, the No. 1 overall pick in last spring's NHL draft. Another highly touted prospect making his debut with the youthful Maple Leafs will be winger Mitch Marner, while coach Mike Babcock begins his second season with the team.
"I just feel there is a little more structure, a little less confusion and everyone knows what to expect," Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri told the Toronto Sun. "There was more of a feeling out process last year with guys coming up and down and having a new staff. Now we're moving forward toward that end goal."
Making his debut behind the Senators bench will be new coach Guy Boucher, who held a demanding training camp focused on shoring up the defensive.
The biggest offseason acquisition for the Senators was center Derick Brassard, who will work regularly between wingers Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith and is expected to bolster an Ottawa power play that ranked 26th last season while operating at a league worst 11.4 percent success rate at home.
"I hope we have a better power play," said Senators captain and power play quarterback Erik Karlsson. "We haven't started the year yet but we're very optimistic it's going to be better. Hopefully we can get off to a good start."
Also in his first year on the job is Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who stated on Tuesday that he won't be a patient man.
"We've said right from the get-go, we feel we're a playoff team," said Dorion. "We hope we can surprise people once we get in the playoffs. We're ready to go."