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FTB: Maple Leafs visit President’s Trophy winners in Washington

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“Mr. Matthews goes to Washington.”

Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Maple Leafs are heading to Washington D.C. to meet the President’s Trophy winners today, and, no, not the actual President. It’s the first meeting of these teams since last seasons’ playoffs in which the Capitals eliminated the Leafs in the first round.

Rivalries are a funny thing. They can originate over time from a series of perceived slights and contested events, or they can arise from a single pivotal moment which creates one big winner, and one big loser.

A Bruins and Leafs rivalry developed from the former, kicked off by the Kessel trade, and further fueled by a few years of hapless Leafs teams losing badly to the “tough” Bruins who had won a Stanley Cup, allegedly with said toughness. It peaked in May 2013 when the Leafs faced the Bruins in the playoffs and lost the series in an infamous Game 7 overtime.

Trades of key players by both teams, like Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, changes in management, and a fall to the bottom of the league standings by both teams essentially ended that rivalry.

Last season, the Leafs lost to the Capitals in six games in the first round of the playoffs. It was a disappointing loss, but it still didn’t fall into the latter category of a pivotal event. However, many have declared that a rivalry was born that day. It doesn’t feel that way to me. It was a more inward-focused event; the dawn of a new Leafs era. A team brimming with young talent showing off the possibilities of the future to a team which had talent and experience, but was also old and tired. The defeat in Game 6 was harsh, but not something emotionally devastating like that loss to the Bruins. After accepting the loss, we were all “back to excited” pretty quickly.

However, perhaps it was the first of a series of events which will at some point establish a new rivalry, like what happened with Boston. We will see what happens tonight.

A preview of the game against the Washington Capitals will be up later this morning when line-up information is confirmed.

FYI - tonight will be Patrick Marleau’s 1,499th NHL game. Expect a ceremony to mark the big 1,500 at the game tomorrow.

Elsewhere, it was a quiet night for the league, with the Lightning defeating the Red Wings 3-2 in the only game. It was quiet inside the allegedly “sold out” Little Caesars Arena too.

ICYMI

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