Capitals Defense Faces Challenge in High-Flying Maple Leafs

The Capitals blue line met their doom on Friday the 13th when Matt Niskanen suffered an injury in their game against the Devils. The next night, the Caps  surrendered a snowman in an 8-2 beat down by the Flyers. It doesn’t get any easier as the Capitals host the young, speedy and high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs

How good is this Maple Leafs team offensively? Let’s take a look at the numbers. The Maple Leafs average 5.20 goals per game, which is easily tops in the NHL. They have a total of 26 goals and have at least eight players with five or more points. They come into the game with a 4-1-0 record and have scored at least four goals in each of those four wins.

But they have cooled off a little bit. In the first two games they piled up 15 goals. In their last three games, they’ve scored a total of 10 goals. Regardless, this is an opponent the Capitals defense can not and will not take lightly.

How much has the defense struggled? After a strong start that saw them lead in fewest goals-against, the Capitals have now allowed the second most goals in the league. It’s actually a three-way tie (Sabres and Coyotes have same number) but it’s still bad. The Capitals defense has averaged 5.2 goals per game, which leads the NHL.

Here’s what the pairs were this morning. Keep in mind that Trotz could play around with these pairs throughout the game.

Christian Djoos and John Carlson will anchor the second unit. The first pair is Brooks Orpik and Niskanen’s replacement, Madison Bowey. On the third pair, Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney.

Orlov is known for contributing on offense too. Here’s a goal by him on second power play unit work.

If the defense wants to contain the Leafs, they have to play physical, fight for the puck along the boards, and fire a shot or two when the Capitals forwards are shooting on the other end. Near the end of the morning skate, they worked on those last two parts.

Auston Matthews leads the Maple Leafs with five goals and is tied for fourth in the league in goals-scored. Trotz called him a young Mario Lemieux. Apparently, that’s not the first time either.

This game is sure to be a dog fight. Like the Capitals, the Leafs have their weaknesses  on defense too. They’ve averaged 3.8 goals-against per game. This game could go either way.

By Michael Marzzacco

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