MAPLE LEAFS (21-29-10) at CAPITALS (45-12-4)
Take one look at those contrasting records. The boys are in TROUBLE. That’s fine though, because the young guns are up with the big club and the final stretch should be a lot more fun than the first three quarters of the season.
If you hadn’t heard already the Leafs called up William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov at the deadline. They all made their debuts on Monday night and it was pretty refreshing. After watching a team with very limited skill all season, watching these young guys was a real fun experience.
Kapanen was flying all night, showing off some slick edge work on several occasions and some explosive speed. He also showed off some slick hands while walking around Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson before being stopped in tight. Nylander showed his confidence in holding on to the puck in dangerous situations like he’s been there for ten years. Soshnikov and Hyman did what they do best by playing with speed and grit.
New additions Connor Carrick, Brooks Laich and Ben Smith also made their Leafs debuts. Carrick is the only one with a real future with the club and he looked pretty good in his debut. Carrick even dropped the gloves with JT Brown after laying him out in the corner.
The Capitals are still tearing up the NHL, leading the second place Blackhawks and Stars by 11 points. The young Maple Leafs squad is going to have a tough time containing Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov and the rest of the potent Capitals. The Capitals are coming into the second leg of a back to back so the Leafs will likely face the backup goaltender like they do every game. This time it will be Philipp Grubauer, but he might not see a whole lot of action in this one.
In my opinion, the biggest story line is Daniel Winnik vs Brooks Laich and Connor Carrick. I’m kidding, but it will be Winnik’s Capitals debut after being traded from the Leafs for the second time in a year. The total return on Winnik trades? Two second round picks, a fourth round pick, Connor Carrick and Brooks Laich. I am forever grateful for Winnik for this reason.
This game should be full of entertainment value, if nothing else. The young Leafs are a treat on their own, but if that fails you get to watch the best team in the NHL go to work.
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik – Mike Richards – Jay Beagle
Matt Niskanen – Karl Alzner
Brooks Orpik – Dmitry Orlov
Nate Schmidt – Mike Weber
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Nikita Soshnikov
Michael Grabner – William Nylander – Zach Hyman
Colin Greening – Ben Smith – Brooks Laich
Kasperi Kapanen – Peter Holland – Brad Boyes
Matt Hunwick – Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Martin Marincin – Connor Carrick
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -23
Gdiff (All) — -35
CF% (5v5) – 51.4
PP% – 14.4
PK% – 80.3
Gdiff (5v5) — +36
Gdiff (All) — +59
CF% (5v5) – 50.3
PP% – 23.9
PK% – 84.2