The Battle of Ontario kicks off the 2006-2007 season tonight at the ACC. This game, and the return matchup tomorrow, will be used as a touchstone for the media, Leafs Nation, and the anti-Leafs. Paul Maurice sees it in a slightly more low-key fashion,
“It’s only important if you end the season on a winning note,” Maurice said this morning. “It starts tonight. But it will be no indicator, regardless of the score, as to how this team is going to finish. We’re moving forward from today.”
But the truth remains that this is a team that has been written off by everyone in the media. Here is a sample of the season previews for the Leafs:
Those are just three of the big ones. The general consensus is that the Leafs are doomed. Much like last season's run was fueled by a lack of pressure I think that going in with such low expectations will be a benefit. Despite the mis-givings that Maurice has with making any predictions based on this year's team, the truth is that these two games are important. Their performance against a team that beat them in every way imaginable, from a shootout to a couple of anhilations, will not define the season but it will give a barometer as to how much the lessons of training camp and the pre-season are sticking.
If we lose both games but play hard, work the new systems, create chances, and generally do not embarrass ourselves then at least we can build on that. Lose 8-0 twice and well...it won't be the end of the world but it won't do much to instill optimism in the legions of Leafs fans.
Five hours to go...