One point would have been enough to get the Leafs into third place, but it wasn’t to be.
In three games versus the best team in the NHL this year, the Leafs took one win, one loss and one overtime loss.
The most recent game was on April 4, and was a 4-1 drubbing by the Capitals against Curtis McElhinney. The win came on November 26, with a great performance by Frederik Andersen, and the OT loss, a goal fest decided by a 6-5 score on a poor performance by Andersen was on January 3. Alexander Ovechkin had the OT winner in that game.
Heading into tonight’s action the Capitals were third in Score and Venue Adjusted Corsi For percentage with 53. The Leafs were tenth with 51 percent. The biggest difference between the two teams is in shots against. Washington is fourth best in CA/60 and Toronto is seventh worst.
The trick Toronto runs, where they outskate and outscore their defensive weakness, is much harder to pull against a team like Washington than it is weaker teams, but that’s true for any team playing any style. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy largely on merit, not luck.
The Capitals have a very hot goaltender in Braden Holtby, and yet he was pulled in a game against the Leafs. Even one of the best in the business can be done in by all that offensive pace the Leafs can produce.
The Leafs enter the playoffs with some injury issues and some questions about the fitness of Andersen and now Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak as well. This series won’t be easy, but the playoffs are supposed to be hard.
The schedule will be announced shortly, but the first game will be in Washington in a few days, and we know what to say: Go Leafs Go.
Numbers are from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick and do not include tonight’s games.