After taking Game 1 in thrilling fashion, the Capitals have dropped Games 2 and 3 in poor performances. After playing poorly in their 4-3 loss in Game 3, the Capitals look to rebound against an energized Maple Leafs squad.
Toronto has proven to be a much harder opponent than many believed they would be. Led by budding superstar Auston Matthews, the young Maple Leafs squad has given the Caps a run for their money, as evidenced by their hard-earned wins in the past two games. They are led in playoff scoring by forward Tyler Bozak and defenseman Morgan Rielly, who each have three points (a goal and two assists). Their dangerous offensive attack has been bolstered by the outstanding play of young goaltender Frederik Andersen, who has a .925 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average in three games against the Caps.
The Leafs’ power play has been fairly consistent, as it ranks sixth in the league with a conversion rate of 22.2%. Their penalty kill has struggled, however, as it ranks 13th of the 16 teams in the playoffs with a kill rate of 72.7%. Multiple skaters have just one point on the man-advantage, which is the highest on the team. Defenseman Jake Gardiner leads the team in average time on ice with an astronomically-high 31:04 a night.
Despite coming off victorious in Game 1, the Caps have been outplayed by the Maple Leafs in the second and third games. They have struggled to contain a high-flying Maple Leafs team, that has scored the first goal of the game in two of the three games played thus far. The Caps are led in playoff scoring by Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, who each have four points (Williams has two goals and two assists, while Oshie has four helpers). Despite some of the best power play weapons at their disposal, the Caps have struggled to solve Andersen and and a stifling Toronto defense. Despite this, the rank third in the NHL with a conversion rate of 27.3%. For a team that prided itself on solid team defense throughout the regular season, the Caps rank 14th out of 16 teams in the playoffs in goals-against per game, with 3.33. However, they rank fourth in goals far per game with 3.00. Their penalty kill hasn’t fared much better, ranking 11th with a kill rate of 77.8%.
Amongst skaters, the Capitals are led in average time on ice by steady blueliner Matt Niskanen, who has averaged 27:44 minutes in three games played. Surprisingly, captain Alex Ovechkin ranks 13th among skaters with just 19:52 of ice time a night. Some have questioned whether Head Coach Barry Trotz has underutilized his top skaters. ON Tuesday during the Capitals’ morning practice, Barry Trotz ruled defensive stalwart Karl Alzner out for the second straight game, per CSN MidAtlantic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
Trotz rules out Alzner. https://t.co/EoIN6HU3JH
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 18, 2017
The Capitals’ and Maple Leafs’ first three games have gone to overtime (Game 2 needed double OT to decide the winner), and it isn’t surprising. According to El-Bashir, 11 of the first 24 playoff games throughout the league have gone to overtime, including all four games on Monday night, and as mentioned above, all three contests in the Capitals-Maple Leafs series.
11 of the first 24 playoff games have gone to OT, including all 4 on Monday night and all three in the #CapsLeafs series. Tums, anyone?
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 18, 2017
While Frederik Andersen has come out victorious in two of their three meetings, Caps netminder Braden Holtby has not played poorly himself, considering the struggles of the team in front of him. Through three games, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.74 and a save percentage of .914. In his career in the playoffs, Holtby is a respectable 23-26-0, with a GAA of 1.93, save percentage of .936, and four shutouts. Of his 46 starts in 49 games played, Holtby has a quality start percentage of .739.
Andersen meanwhile, has a 19-10-0 record, with a GAA of 2.36, save percentage of .917, and two shutouts. Of his 28 starts in 31 games played, he has a quality start percentage of .679. Through three games, Andersen has a slightly better GAA of 2.47 and save percentage of .925.
LAST TIME WE MET
As mentioned above, the Capitals took Game 1 at home 3-2 on an overtime tally from Toronto native Tom Wilson. Game 2 belonged to the Maple Leafs in a 4-3 victory, after a goal from youngster Kasperi Kapanen in double overtime. Last night, the Caps played poorly and dropped a potentially important Game 3 in overtime, 4-3. In the series, the Capitals have been outscored 10-9 and have struggled to contain a high-flying Toronto team.
- Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has two goals in the series, one each at both even-strength and on the man-advantage. In his career during the regular season against Toronto, Ovechkin has scored 33 times and added 27 assist for 60 points.
- Former first overall pick Auston Matthews scored his first career playoff goal in Game 3. In the first three games, the 19-year old budding superstar has a goal and assist while averaging 21:01 of ice time a night.
- In his time as coach of the Caps, Barry Trotz has gone 14-15 (.483 win percentage) in 29 playoff games behind the Washington bench. During his time in Nashville, Trotz went an even worse 19-31-0 in 50 games, bad enough for a .380 win percentage).
By Michael Fleetwood