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Forget history

Leafs have had Sens' number, but Ottawa will win this Battle of Ontario

Posted: Thursday April 8, 2004 1:44PM; Updated: Thursday April 8, 2004 1:45PM
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No. 4 Toronto vs. No. 5 Ottawa


In this ferocious rivalry, Toronto's brawn tries to contain Ottawa's pure skill. The Maple Leafs may be without emotional leader Owen Nolan, but neither team will have trouble getting up for every shift this series.


The Senators' supremely productive offense (NHL-leading 262 goals) got juiced by the acquisition of sniper Peter Bondra who adds yet another set of blazing skate blades to this fast and highly skilled group. Toronto's forwards revolve around captain Mats Sundin, the best player in this series. The Maple Leafs, who also depend on playoff veteran Joe Nieuwendyk, don't have Ottawa's playmaking ability, but they're much more physical.

Advantage: Senators


Puck-mover Brian Leetch has livened things up for Toronto since coming over from the Rangers in early March. Leetch and teammate Bryan McCabe are crucial point producers. Still, Toronto doesn't stack up to the Senators' top four of Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Greg de Vries and the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara.

Advantage: Senators


The Leafs' Ed Belfour is getting creakier and creakier (he turns 39 on April 21), but he still has ice in his veins and could have one more Cup run in him. The Senators have stuck with Patrick Lalime, who draws criticism for losing the big one. But Lalime had the best playoffs of his career last year and lead the Senators to within one game of the conference finals.

Advantage: Maple Leafs


Led by forwards Martin Havlat and Marian Hossa, the Senators' power play is crisp, blindingly swift and tops in the NHL. They could run roughshod on Toronto's suspect penalty kill. Toronto's power play got a huge boost with the addition of Leetch.

Advantage: Senators


Couple of old pros here. Toronto's Pat Quinn coaches with bluster, Ottawa's Jacques Martin coaches with grace. Each team embodies its leader's personality. When it comes to playing matchups, Quinn has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

Advantage: Maple Leafs


Toronto has beaten Ottawa in all three of their previous playoff series and trounced the Senators in the season finale to wrap up home-ice advantage. Referees have made noise about calling games tighter in the playoffs, if that happens, it will be a boost for the Senators.

Advantage: Maple Leafs


Ottawa's skill level is superior, so Toronto will need playoff veterans like Nieuwendyk and forward Gary Roberts to capitalize in crucial spots. Hard to bet against history, but this is the Senators' year. Ottawa in six.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.