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Playoff Game 1 Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals

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Let’s do this.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This is it folks. The post-season has started. The Canadiens, Oilers, Senators, and Blue Jackets all lost their series opening games.

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will head in a different direction. It’s the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it’s time to believe.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals
7:00PM - Verizon Centre, Washington DC
TV: CBC, TVA Sports, USA Network
Radio: TSN1050
Stream it: Game Centre Live, NBC Sports, CBC.ca?
SBN: Japers Rink

It’s been four years since a playoff game for the Maple Leafs was played, eleven if we go back to 82 game seasons.

Out of all the players on that 2004 roster, only Matt Stajan is still active in the NHL as a player:

via Hockey-Reference.com

Number Name Position Age Stats
Number Name Position Age Stats
80 Nik Antropov C 23 13 G, 18 A, 31 P
2-3 Wade Belak D 27 1 G, 1 A, 2 P
20 Ed Belfour G 38 34-19-6, 2.13 GAA
55 Drake Berehowsky D 32 1 G, 2 A, 3 P
8 Aki Berg D 26 2 G, 7 A, 9 P
45 Carlo Colaiacovo D 21 0 G, 1 A, 1 P
28 Tie Domi RW 34 7 G, 13 A, 20 P
18 Harold Druken C 25 0 G, 4 A, 4 P
12 Tom Fitzgerald C 35 7 G, 10 A, 17 P
10 Ron Francis C 40 3 G, 7 A, 10 P
3 Pierre Hedin D 25 0 G, 1 A, 1 P
9 Josh Holden C 26 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
55 Ric Jackman D 25 2 G, 4 A, 6 P
9 Calle Johansson D 36 0 G, 6 A, 6 P
33 Craig Johnson C 31 1 G, 1 A, 2 P
15 Tomas Kaberle D 25 3 G, 28 A, 31 P
37 Trevor Kidd G 31 6-5-2, 3.26 GAA
18 Chad Kilger LW 27 1 G, 1 A, 2 P
22 Ken Klee D 32 4 G, 25 A, 29 P
34 Maxim Kondratiev D 21 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
38 Brad Leeb RW 24 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
2 Brian Leetch D 35 2 G, 13 A, 15 P
27 Bryan Marchment D 34 1 G, 3 A, 4 P
24 Bryan McCabe D 28 16 G, 37 A, 53 P
89 Alexander Mogilny RW 34 8 G, 22 A, 30 P
25 Joe Nieuwendyk C 37 22 G, 28 A, 50 P
11 Owen Nolan RW 31 19 G, 29 A, 48 P
26 Nathan Perrott RW 27 1 G, 2 A, 3 P
29 Karel Pilar D 26 2 G, 17 A, 19 P
23 Alexei Ponikarovsky LW 23 9 G, 19 A, 28 P
21 Robert Reichel C 32 11 G, 19 A, 30 P
19 Mikael Renberg LW 31 12 G, 13 A, 25 P
7 Gary Roberts LW 37 28 G, 20 A, 48 P
14 Matt Stajan C 20 14 G, 13 A, 27 P
13 Mats Sundin (C) C 32 31 G, 44 A, 75 P
32 Mikael Tellqvist G 24 5-3-2, 2.87 GAA
16 Darcy Tucker LW 28 21 G, 11 A, 32 P
42 Kyle Wellwood C 20 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
39 Clarke Wilm C 27 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

Matt Stajan was just a 20 year old rookie when the Maple Leafs fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004. He wouldn’t play another playoff game until the 2014-15 season with the Calgary Flames. He’s still in their line up this year, and will try to help them get past the Anaheim Ducks.

The season after that series was cancelled because the owners wanted a salary cap and the players did not. The Stanley Cup was not awarded in 2005, and when the NHL resumed playing it was a very different league and the Maple Leafs front office wasn’t prepared for the changes.

Nine years later, it took another lock out to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs. The 2013 season was cut short, so the Leafs were able to lock in a playoff spot before they fell out of one - which all signs were pointing to happening. They made it, and took the Boston Bruins - Stanley Cup Champions from two years prior - to seven games, losing in overtime. That roster has had a lot of turn over, but there’s a core of players who remain:

via Hockey-Reference.com

No. Player Pos Summary
No. Player Pos Summary
42 Tyler Bozak C 12 G, 16 A, 28 P
18 Mike Brown RW 0 G, 1 A, 1 P
32 Joe Colborne C 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
4 Cody Franson D 4 G, 25 A, 29 P
45 Mark Fraser D 0 G, 8 A, 8 P
39 Matt Frattin RW 7 G, 6 A, 13 P
51 Jake Gardiner D 0 G, 4 A, 4 P
84 Mikhail Grabovski C 9 G, 7 A, 16 P
36 Carl Gunnarsson D 1 G, 14 A, 15 P
48 Ryan Hamilton LW 0 G, 2 A, 2 P
55 Korbinian Holzer D 2 G, 1 A, 3 P
43 Nazem Kadri C 18 G, 26 A, 44 P
81 Phil Kessel RW 20 G, 32 A, 52 P
47 Leo Komarov C 4 G, 5 A, 9 P
8 Mike Komisarek D 0 G, 0 A, 0 P
53 Mike Kostka D 0 G, 8 A, 8 P
41 Nikolai Kulemin LW 7 G, 16 A, 23 P
24 John-Michael Liles D 2 G, 9 A, 11 P
19 Joffrey Lupul C 11 G, 7 A, 18 P
16 Clarke MacArthur LW 8 G, 12 A, 20 P
11 Jay McClement C 8 G, 9 A, 17 P
38 Frazer McLaren LW 3 G, 2 A, 5 P
23 Ryan O'Byrne D 1 G, 1 A, 2 P
28 Colton Orr RW 1 G, 3 A, 4 P
3 Dion Phaneuf (C) D 9 G, 19 A, 28 P
34 James Reimer G 19-8-5, 2.46 GAA
40 Jussi Rynnas G 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA
30 Ben Scrivens G 7-9-0, 2.69 GAA
20 David Steckel C 0 G, 1 A, 1 P
21 James van Riemsdyk LW 18 G, 14 A, 32 P
21 Robert Reichel 32
19 Mikael Renberg 31
7 Gary Roberts 37
14 Matt Stajan 20
13 Mats Sundin (C) 32
32 Mikael Tellqvist 24
16 Darcy Tucker 28
42 Kyle Wellwood 20
39 Clarke Wilm 27

Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, James van Reimsdyk, Leo Komarov, and Jake Gardiner were all early on in their Maple Leafs careers in 2013, but have those final ten minutes seared into their memories forever. Never again.

The turn over between playoff visits for the Maple Leafs is incredible, but shows how long it’s been.

Tonight we start fresh. The majority of these players are entering if not their first NHL playoff series, then their first with Toronto. The Maple Leafs are the underdogs to a veteran Washington Capitals team who, surprisingly, has more to prove to the rest of the league. The Leafs are jsut happy to be here. The Capitals need to win this series.

After the lost season the Washington Capitals debuted one of the biggest offensive stars in the NHL today: Alexander Ovechkin. He hasn’t been alone in the CApitals star power; Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Brayden Holtby, Alexander Semin, have all seen their names elevated in the NHL because of their time with the Capitals. This team has dominated the regular season, but have run into stronger teams, hot goalies, long series, and bad bounces along the way and have never reached the Eastern Conference Final in the past 12 years:

Capitals playoff results

Season Division Finish Playoff result
Season Division Finish Playoff result
2005-06 5th Missed
2006-07 5th Missed
2007-08 1st Lost 1st round to Flyers
2008-09 1st Lost 2nd round to Penguins
2009-10 1st Lost 1st round to Canadiens
2010-11 1st Lost 2nd round to Lightning
2011-12 1st Lost 2nd round to Rangers
2013 1st Lost 1st round to Rangers
2013-14 5th Missed
2014-15 2nd Lost 2nd round to Rangers
2015-16 1st Lost 2nd round to Penguins
2016-17 1st vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Unfair or no, the Capitals have a playoff reputation to shake off. Can Frederik Andersen go full Jaroslav Halak and be a brick wall to the Capitals offense? Will Auston Matthews be the Sidney Crosby of this series and trade hat tricks with Ovechkin? Either way is fine, as long as the Leafs win the series.



Potential Lines

Toronto Maple Leafs

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin - Brian Boyle - Kasperi Kapanen

Morgan Rielly- Matt Hunwick
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Dmitri Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Kevin Shattenkirk
Karl Alzner - Nate Schmidt

Brayden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

Lines will be updated when new information becomes available.

The Maple Leafs are missing Nikita Zaitsev to injury and the Capitals are missing John Carlsson.


It’s a big day for Leafs Nation.

No one had making the playoffs as a do or die scenario for the Maple Leafs this season. We’re getting some extra games, one year after finishing dead last in the standings.

Let’s enjoy this.

Go Leafs Go.