Toronto Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals
06:00 PM at Capital One Arena
Watch on: ESPN, ESPN+, TSN4
NOTE THE START TIME
The Leafs last game was an away game on October 21 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which Toronto won by a score of 4-3. The Leafs have a record of 3-2-0 so far.
The Washington Capitals last played an away game on October 21 against the Montréal Canadiens. The Capitals lost by a score of 3-2, and their current league record is 1-2-1.
Washington is not very good this year. This seems to be coming as a surprise to many, or at least they're acting surprised. Anyone who took a serious or even casual look at the Eastern Conference last year would have noticed something obvious: The Atlantic has more teams that could make the playoffs than any other division and the Metro isn't exactly lacking either.
There is going to be a fight for wild card spots that will likely go down to the final week of the season. Some two or three teams that will spend seven months thinking they can make it will be left out. Finding the weakest teams in the east is easy, obviously it's Detroit, Philadelphia, Montréal and Columbus you don't even need to click that link to verify it. But finding the not quite good enough is a more difficult task.
Right now the Capitals look like they're one of the weakest teams in the NHL when you do more than just assume. More on this after the lines.
Tarik El-Bashir via Daily Faceoff
Alex Ovechkin - Dylan Strome - Matthew Phillips
Connor McMichael - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Sonny Milano - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Beck Malenstyn - Aliaksei Protas - Anthony Mantha
Martin Fehervary - John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Alexander Alexeyev - Nick Jensen
Darcy Kuemper - presumed starter
Sheldon Keefe is doing a very unusual thing, well outside his usual M.O. He's juggling lines and defence pairings after a win. I'm guessing that one purpose here is to get Tyler Bertuzzi less ice time while he's not 100%, but moving John Klingberg back up – well, he sure can pass. He was helpful in that regard late in the comeback last game.
This is all based on the most recent practice, so who knows if it will last through first contact with the Capitals. This game was a scheduled start for Woll.
Calle Järnkrok - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi- John Tavares - William Nylander
Matt Knies - David Kämpf - Max Domi
Noah Gregor - Pontus Holmberg - Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe - John Klingberg
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Joe Woll - confirmed starter
For fun, I decided to give NHL Edge another chance at providing at least enjoyable trivia. They have not added any way to easily share information so screenshots are required.
That is a picture and Washington is trying hard to render a radar graph unusable. Remember, or learn now if you didn't read the article about this, nothing on this graph measures defence or goaltending. There is no GA or SOG Against.
This actually is a picture that is worth at least 50 or so words. One thing you can learn about hockey from this measure is something we already know, but abstract right out of our thinking when we use shot-based metrics as a proxy for possession. This is puck location as a proxy for possession. Neither is perfect.
Note: they use the term "below average" here universally, but of course in the defensive zone, higher numbers are shaded as below and lower numbers as above. Clear?
With the puck-location method we get the neutral zone time and we don't end up ignoring that and just splitting the offence and defence up into a single percentage. You might accidentally think 43.4% offensive zone time isn't very good, even with the lightest grey shading because we're used to thinking in terms of over 50% or you suck.
By switching to the team page on Edge, you can learn that the league average offensive zone time (as of now) is 41.3% and the Leafs are in the 90th percentile by this measure. Who is better? You can actually find that out (when you're looking at something that is in the top 10).
- Carolina - 48.3
- Rangers - 44.5
- Flames - 43.7
- Vegas - 43.4 tied with Toronto
Toronto was 10th last season with 42.1% on the year. So now we know their zone time numbers so far this season are normal for them, and put them in the top 10 in the NHL.
Other things I learned from Edge's presentation: Toronto has 192 SOG so far and Washington 99. You have to get out your calculator and account for the difference in games played. Toronto has 18 goals and Washington 5. Toronto is shooting at a very normal 9.4% in all situations, so in Edge-world where defence and goaltending aren't team stats, we're hot stuff.
Of course you know what the problems Toronto is exhibiting are all about, and that the comparison of these teams in the real world isn't quite this skewed. If you're on NHL.com and you want team GA, you need the standings page, and it tells me the Leafs have allowed the third most in the Eastern Conference with 19. Washington has allowed 15. Time to get out the calculator again...
That's all Edge knows, we know that one thing matters in this game. Keep Rasmus Sandin from getting a hat trick.
Go Woll Go!