The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators will once again clash in the Battle of Ontario on Saturday night, the third installment of this rivalry in the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season. The two provincial rivals are intimately familiar with one another, having played one another several times and even orchestrating a number of trades together, and perhaps as a result of that Ottawa Senators head coach DJ Smith thinks he may have a gameplan for shutting down Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews.
Smith spoke to members of the assembled media prior to the game on Saturday night and it was then that Smith revealed his intention to use a former member of the Maple Leafs organization to shut down Matthews in this installment of the Battle of Ontario. Smith praised former Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev for his performance against the Arizona Coyotes, and more specifically Coyotes forward Taylor Hall, and stated that he once again intends to deploy Zaitsev against the oppositions star players.
"I don't know if he let Taylor Hall in more than a couple times the other night," said Smith as per Fox. "He's feet are the best of anyone on our back end.... He's a guy you want to play against the best players. He'll be seen every shift against (Auston) Matthews tonight."
Those are certainly strong words from Smith, however given that fans in Toronto are intimately familiar with the play of Zaitsev they have been quick to mock the Senators head coach for his comments today. Many have been quick to suggest that Matthews could end up having a career game if the Senators were to make the decision to have Zaitsev shadow Auston Matthews this evening, as well as other forms of mockery directed at Smith, Zaitsev, and the Senators as a whole.
Shutting down Matthews will be easier said than done however, especially given the form he has been showing in this current season. Boston Bruin David Pastrnak currently leads the NHL in terms of goals scored with 42 however Matthews is hot on his heels with 41 goals, and Matthews also has the added benefit of having a game in hand on Pastrnak. We will get to see how well Smith's plan will work out in just a few short hours.