The Leafs play the Washington Capitals tonight in their final appearance before the all-star game and their week long buy week. A win would go a long way toward boosting the confidence of the media, fans and team during the break, and head coach Mike Babcock agrees, as he has said as much. You can enjoy your strawberry daiquiri on the beach more comfortably if you’re doing it after coming off a win.
Are they just grasping at straws now for reasons to wake up and play to their potential?
When they return they’ll be bombarded by the schedule maker, who decided it would be a fabulous idea for them to play 15 games in a month with 28 days, which will include three sets of back-to-backs.
Rest up Leafers, you’re about to need it.
The Capitals and Leafs come into this game tied with 60pts a piece. Good for 8th and 9th in the league in the overall standings, with the Leafs taking 8th due to having a game in hand. Also, neither team is exactly lighting the league on fire these days. With the Leafs stumbling into the arena with a 3-7-0 record in their previous 10 games, and the Capitals going just 3-4-3 over their past 10, and having lost 6 in a row, this may be a game of who screws up the least, instead of who plays the best.
The key to the game for the Capitals will be to play a physical style. They can let players such as Tom Wilson run wild right now, because even if he takes a penalty or two the Leafs’ powerplay won’t likely capitalize. The 1st unit, one that started the season on fire, has become stagnant and predictable, while the 2nd unit, now with Matthews and Nylander on it, has never seemed dangerous at all this year.
For the Leafs the game plan needs to be to get rubber towards the net. Braden Holtby hasn’t been good this year at all. He comes into this game sporting a goals against average above 3, and SV% of just 0.906. Pitiful numbers for a starting goaltender in the NHL. I know a backup with slightly better numbers that is being called an ECHLer…. but I digress. If their powerplay is going to get it’s confidence back then this could be the game to make it happen.
In order to try to jumpstart the offense, Babcock has shuffled the lines a bit as well. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are expected to start the game on the same line. If you ask me a move such as this is long overdue. The Leafs have been limping for a while now, and while I do like that Mike doesn’t just give up on what has worked in the past, it does help to give your lineup a shake at times to see what comes of it.
Here’s hoping it all leads to a win.
Freddy Andersen starts tonight.
#Leafs lines at morning skate (vs. WSH tonight):
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 23, 2019
My prediction? 5-0 Leafs!!! What’s yours??
GO LEAFS GO!!
It appears as if Jake Gardiner will sit for a second straight game. Marincin will play once again, while Dermott moves up to play in Gardiners usual spot alongside Nikita Zaitsev.
My prediction remains the same.
#Leafs lines in warmups vs. Washington:
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 24, 2019