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Back to Back Hopefully Becomes Back to Form

This says it all.
This says it all.

Maple Leafs vs. Capitals from the Verizon Center- 7PM TSN, NHL-N (US)

After losing for the 6th time in 7 games last night, the Leafs have to face the perennial regular season powerhouse Washington Capitals on no rest. Normally playing games back-to-back would see a team weakened for the second outing, but seeing as how the Leafs played with no energy last night against provincial rival Ottawa, they should be well rested for this evening's festivities.

The story for tonight's game is one of dichotomy. The Leafs are a back-end out team rooted in solid defensive play and quality goaltending. They aren't going to score a ton of goals, and are going to play a lot of close 1 goal games this season. Washington is built in a completely opposite fashion. They are a run and gun team built to do one thing and do it well; score goals. But it's live by the sword, die by the sword as they've been known to lose many a game by ridiculous scores like 6-5. But I don't foresee a game like that tonight.

Up front, the Leafs have the 2nd worst offense in the league scoring a paltry 2.27 goals a game and only putting 27.4 shots on net on average; 3rd worst in the league. Washington, with its high fliers in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin, pot 3.09 goals a game (6th) and take 31.6 shots a game (11th). Aside from Phil Kessel, the Leafs have no forwards who can hang with Washington's Top 6.

Here are the forward lines for tonight (subject to change) (they've changed):

Maple Leafs        Capitals
Caputi Versteeg
Bozak Kessel Ovechkin Backstrom Semin
MacArthur Grabovski Kulemin Laich Fleishmann Knuble
Versteeg Caputi
Brent Brown Chimera Gordon Fehr
Sjostrom Hanson Orr Hendricks Steckel Bradley

Advantage: Washington +

More after the jump.

Up at the point it's a different story. The Leafs defense has somehow manged to only give up 26.3 shots a game, good for 2nd best in the league. However, due to some flukey happenings and penalty shots, their goals against is 2.36 which is higher than one would expect with such a low shot against total. Washington, usually believed to view defense as an afterthought, is actually surprisingly decent in the shots against category only giving up 29.1 a game. Though I believe that to have more to do with having the puck in the offensive zone for most of the game as opposed to solid defense. The loss of Captain Dion Phaneuf surely weakens the Buds blueline, but with veteran Mike Komisarek able to step in to his 22+ minutes a night, his loss will not have as big of an impact as one may think. Per John Bartlett, Korbinian Holzer gets to sit in the press box tonight as the 7th defenseman.


Here are the defensive pairings for tonight (subject to change):

Maple Leafs      Capi tals
Beauchemin Komisarek Schultz Green
Kaberle Schenn Erskine Fahey
Lebda Gunnarsson Alzner Carlson

Advantage: Toronto -

Between the pipes it'll be two young Europeans looking to make a mark getting the starts. For Washington, Michal Neuvirth, the NHL's rookie of the month for October, has looked fantastic thus far. In 10 games, he has 7 wins, a .926 sv%, and a GAA of only 2.15. Long gone are the days of Jose Threeorfour; the Capitals may have found that NHL caliber goalie they so desperately need for post-season success. 178 feet away, it'll be Jonas Gustavsson in net for the Leafs. Despite a losing record of 1-2, he has been great with a .921 sv% and 2.36 GAA. A goalie has to rely on his team to score goals for a win if he's only letting 2 in a night. This will be the toughest opposition the Monster has faced this season, but it looks like he's up for the challenge.


Maple Leafs      Capitals
Gustavsson Neuvirth
Giguere Holtby

Advantage - Even

The Capitals are going to score goals tonight; it's what they do best. The question will be can the Leafs do the same and rely on their back-end to keep the Capitals chances down and Ovechkin in check? To get out of their current slump and continue to have a shot at the playoffs, the Leafs are going to have to steal some games away from teams who "should" beat them. Tonight is one of those games. GO LEAFS GO!