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Washington Capitals @ Toronto Maple Leafs - Game 72
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SN1, MNMT

The Leafs last game was at home on March 26 against the New Jersey Devils, which Toronto lost by a score of 6-3 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 40-22-9 for a 0.627 Points %.

The Washington Capitals last played at home on March 26 against the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals won by a score of 4-3 in overtime, and their current league record is 36-26-9 for a 0.570 Points %.

Them

The Leafs wrap up their series against the Capitals tonight, and this team is hardly a mystery to us now. We seem to play Metro teams and no one else right now.

Since we last played Washington, four games ago, they have moved into third in the Metro by Points %, and sure seem like they've got a playoff spot. The margins are tight however. The Flyers are actually ahead by one point, and Detroit behind by only two for the second wild card place.

Fans of home town player Dylan Strome might be interested in this feature:

Strome is an interesting player. He's kicked around the NHL almost exactly like Max Domi, doing time in Arizona before they traded him when he might need to be paid some money. He's played in Chicago and Washington since, and he's 27 years old, if you still think of him as young. Washington, where he likely plays higher in the lineup than he would on most teams touching playoff level, is where he's found his greatest success.

It's interesting to consider the players launched out in a salary dump to bad teams by Arizona over the years and to think about their careers as they need to hit team three before they really get to play serious hockey.

I don't see Strome leaving Washington any time soon, now that he's found a place to thrive.

Lines

Sammi Silber via Daily Faceoff from the last game

Alex Ovechkin - Connor McMichael - T.J. Oshie
Aliaksei Protas - Dylan Strome - Ivan Miroshnichenko
Max Pacioretty - Hendrix Lapierre - Michael Sgarbossa
Beck Malenstyn - Nic Dowd - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Martin Fehervary - John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin - Nick Jensen
Alexander Alexeyev - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Charlie Lindgren
Darcy Kuemper

Us

As covered in the FTB today, the Leafs raised the ire of Sheldon Keefe with their play against the Devils. They also cancelled practice and had a skills day with:

So that dissonance between what was said and what was done is very interesting. While Keefe was very justifiably unhappy with the play of the top-minute players, there seems to be a strong indication he's seeing mental and physical fatigue as a cause. Not a surprise, the schedule is brutal and happenstance has handed the Leafs a lot of teams with something to play for – something I think is much more meaningful than these calculated "strength of schedule" lists you see around right now.

A few days ago, fanciful takes were surfacing about the Leafs taking second place in the Atlantic, now the gloomfans are happy to imagine the Leafs falling right out of the playoffs, or less fantastically, to the wild card spot currently occupied by Tampa.

The Leafs will play either New York, Boston or Florida in round one. Shrug.

But the truth is the playoff "race" isn't, and the order in which games are won and lost is irrelevant, and where a team is now means nothing. It's all about your own play, how much you win. And the Leafs have been cruising along all season with a playoff level Points %. Nothing has changed.

*Auston Matthews was absent from morning skate and is a gametime decision with illness. The morning skate lines had Max Domi as the 1C in place of Matthews.

Mitch Marner took part but is not playing. This is a very positive sign, however.

Morgan Rielly is day-to-day,

Lines

Extrapolated from morning skate:

Tyler Bertuzzi - Auston Matthews* - Max Domi
Bobby McMann - John Tavares - William Nylander
Matthew Knies - Pontus Holmberg - Nicholas Robertson
Connor Dewar - David Kämpf - Ryan Reaves

Jake McCabe - Timothy Liljegren
T.J. Brodie - Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit - Conor Timmins

Joe Woll - confirmed starter
Martin Jones or Ilya Samsonov

The Game

The Capitals will not be phoning this in. The Leafs shouldn't either. I think the Capitals are a fairly terrible team to be honest. But fairly terrible gets you third in the Metro, and there's no use complaining about it, that's how it is. A league with 32 teams and more to come is never going to get rid of divisional play.


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