Topping It All Off: Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Washington Capitals (8-2-3) v Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-2)

  Predicted Goaltender Record (W-L-OTL) GAA/SA%
Washington Capitals Braden Holtby 4-1-3 3.64/.886
Toronto Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen 6-2-1 2.94/.904

 

Tonight, the Washington Capitals will round out their five-game road trip as they face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto has struggled considerably to start off the season, and Washington’s performance this October, particularly on the road, should bode well for tonight’s match. For comparisons’ sake, here are some stats from recent seasons, through nine games;

2017-18 (Stanley Cup Champions); 4-4-1, 9 points

2018-19 (Eliminated in Round 1, 7 games); 4-3-2, 10 points

2019-20 (???); 5-3-1, 11 points

  • Through 13 games; 8-2-3, 19 points

The Washington Capitals are coming off a thrilling monumental comeback win versus the Vancouver Canucks last Friday night. Caps’ fans are very familiar with blown third period leads this season, but this time it was the Vancouver Canucks that ended up on the receiving end of that blown lead. For only the fourth time in franchise history, and for the first time since 1991, the Capitals overcame a four-goal deficit to ultimately win the game. More impressively, it was only the third time that Washington has overcome a four-goal deficit to win with 21 minutes or less remaining in a game. Despite ranking 6th in the Pacific Division, the Canucks had actually won six of their last seven games prior to their meeting with the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps on the board first, just three minutes into the game. However, Brock Boeser and Tim Schaller came back to score two shortly thereafter, one coming on the power play and the second coming short-handed, to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead heading into the 2nd frame. What seemed to be a manageable game, quickly turned south as Elias Pettersson, Tim Schaller, and Jake Virtanen added to the Canucks’ lead to establish a dominant 5-1 lead halfway through the game. It was certainly justified for fans to feel like throwing in the towel, but Todd Reirdens’ Capitals team had different plans. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s timely buzzer beater goal gave the Capitals life as they headed into the third period down by three goals. It was at this moment that the tides changed in British Columbia. Fortunately for Washington, and unfortunately for the home team, an early third period power play for the Canucks led to a short-handed goal by Lars Eller, bringing the Caps within two. Asserting that Michal Kempnys’ return to the lineup (after missing the second half of last season with an injury) was crucial for the Caps would prove to be a MASSIVE understatement. Kempny has three goals and two assists in five games, two of which couldn’t have come at a better time (TheScore, Michal Kempny). Back-to-back goals from the defenseman within three minutes of Ellers’ goal, and within four minutes of Kuznetsov’s goal TIED what once seemed to be an impossible deficit. The Capitals were able to hold off the Canucks for the remainder of the third period, and for the second time in as many games, extra hockey was needed to determine if the third period comeback would be enough. Despite a number of great opportunities by the Capitals, neither team would score the game-winning goal in overtime. Shootout star TJ Oshie gave Washington the advantage through one attempt, but in the second round, a missed shot attempt by Evgeny Kuznetsov, and a success by Elias Pettersson tied the two teams. It was, of course, none other than Nicklas Backstrom who once again won it for the Capitals in the shootout, as he so dominantly snuck the puck past Canucks’ goal tender Jacob Markstrom. In fact, neither the fans watching nor most of the players on the bench realized that Backstrom won it for Washington. Perhaps the most interesting detail of the night was just how much secondary scoring depth the Capitals have this season. The entire Caps’ top line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie had -2 ratings for the night, Tom Wilson -1, and John Carlson -3 (TheScore, Washington). All five goals and respective assists came from bottom nine forwards and defensemen. Rookie goal-tender Ilya Samsonov won his first career shootout, and improved his record to 4-1-0. One of those four wins for Samsonov came versus Toronto earlier in the season in a 4-3 win at Capital One Arena. Braden Holtby, however, is expected to start tonight versus the Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, are off to a rough start this year. With four losses in their last six starts, John Tavares out with a broken finger, Zach Hyman on injured reserve with a knee injury, and Morgan Reilly having not shown up to practice for three days, Mike Babcocks’ Leafs seem to be imploding. Toronto dropped their last game 2-5 to the Montreal Canadiens, where defenseman Jake Muzzin and Andreas Johnsson scored the only two goals for the Leafs. Offensively, Toronto is roughly among the middle of the pack, with a power play operating at 21.1%, good enough for 16th, and ranking 6th in goals scored per game (3.54) (NHL.com). Auston Matthews leads the team in goals with nine, and Mitch Marner in assists with 12, but overall, the teams’ goal differential is a measly +1. However, their defense is among the worst in the league. Allowing an average of 32.8 shots and 3.38 goals against, the Leafs rank 7th worst in both categories. However, defenseman Travis Dermott is expected to make his season debut tonight, playing his first game since May, after undergoing shoulder surgery. Due to Michael Hutchinsons’ rocky start, we expect to see veteran Frederik Andersen start for the Maple Leafs tonight.

Coverage of the game begins at 6:00pm with Caps Faceoff Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, all on NBCSN/NBCSWA, with puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.

 

Sources:

NHL.com. (2019). Toronto Maple Leafs Stats. Retrieved from https://www.nhl.com/mapleleafs/stats/regular-season.

TheScore. (2019). Michal Kempny: Stats, Age, News. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/players/5579.

TheScore. (2019). Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/events/21886.

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