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Gameday: Maple Leafs at Capitals

The standings are nearly set in stone.

2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals
Flashback to the worst alts in Leafs history.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals
7 pm on SNO and HULU

It’s game night again, everyone. Tonight the Leafs face the Capitals, a team that can theoretically move up from the second wildcard spot to the first. The difference is meaningful to them since it’s a choice between Florida in the first round and Carolina/Rangers.

In theory, the Capitals could move right up to third in the Metro division, something that seemed impossible just a few days ago before both Carolina and Pittsburgh lost their starters to injury. The Capitals have four more games including tonight, so they need to win more than their competition in a very short span, but they can only control their own destiny by winning.

Them

Washington are rested, after a fashion. They just returned from Arizona where they cruised to a shutout win over the Coyotes on Friday. Vitek Vanacek was in net for them, and he’s starting again tonight.

The lines from that game were:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Conor Sheary
Anthony Mantha - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Johan Larsson - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Martin Fehervary - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk - Justin Schultz

Ilya Samsonov
Vitek Vanacek - confirmed starter

Us

The Leafs lost Michael Bunting to some kind of leg injury last night, and while there’s been some question if Auston Matthews will play every game down the stretch, he’s going tonight, and John Tavares is taking a rest. Timothy Liljegren is out tonight. The likely lineup is something like:

William Nylander - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - Nick Abruzzese
Pierre Engvall - David Kämpf - Colin Blackwell
Wayne Simmonds - Jason Spezza - Kyle Clifford

note: this is just my guess

Morgan Rielly - Ilya Lyubushkin
T.J. Brodie - Justin Holl
Mark Giordano - Carl Dahlström

Erik Källgren
Jack Campbell

Källgren will get the start, and for the Leafs this game has a lot less meaning. They need to survive Tom “pure as the driven snow” Wilson, and get back to Toronto without any more injuries.

The Game

Florida has clinched first place. The Leafs hold the first tie-breaker over the Lightning by a big margin and are five points ahead of them. To have the Lightning overtake the Leafs they need to get six more points in their four games than the Leafs get in three games.

Is that possible? Have I said this eight million times? Is that kind of points swing in the last week of the season probable?

Bottom line: if you want to watch a race for something, tune in to the Vegas game later on tonight, but don’t worry yourself into a knot over will the Leafs keep home ice advantage.

The point of these last few games is to pick out the one defenceman to hate unreasonably and blame for every goal against. Focus on that.

And Go Leafs Go!