Just in time for the 90th anniversary of Leafs Nation comes the party-pooping Senators from Ottawa.
If recent home-opener tradition follows, the air will go out of the Leafs about the same time the bagpipes of the 48th Highlanders deflate following the national anthem. The Sens carry a record of 12-2-2 against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, out-scoring them 69-39.
Last year's series went very much according to plan, with Ottawa beating the Leafs in their home opener for the third consecutive time and capturing the season's series (5-1-2).
But the Leafs were trying to look at the back-to-back games against their nemesis as the perfect test of their new season. One of their biggest nights was the 6-0 win that turned the tables on Ottawa in its opener,
"We play them eight times," reminded defenceman Hal Gill.
"If we'd turned just one of those losses around last year, we would've made the playoffs (instead of missing by a point)."
Gill and new partner Andy Wozniewski likely will get the tap on the bench every time the potent line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza are out. That trio had 28 points in last year's series.
"There have been a few lopsided games, but aside from that they've been pretty close. There's no real reason why we've had success there. Whatever it is, we want to keep it going," Spezza said.
Giving them any unnecessary room would be suicidal, underlining the need to avoid the penalty box. Coach Paul Maurice says every defensive drill the Leafs run these days ends with a stern warning to keep sticks on the ice and out of sight of vigilant referees.
"We were only fourth in penalties against for part of last year, but our problems started when we got away from that," Maurice said.
Maurice continued to keep his choice of starting goalie a secret, but not using Vesa Toskala after sacrifing so much for him in a trade would be a surprise. Neither Toskala nor Andrew Raycroft looked sharp in pre-season games.
This will be the first game for the line of Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov and Jason Blake, the latter the Leafs' lone free agent signing. It's Blake's first official game in anything other than a New York Islanders' sweater.
"That part is over and I have a new book starting," Blake said yesterday after the final training camp practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "I only played two (exhibition) games, so I'm ready."