The Washington Capitals clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 NHL Stadium Series game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, tonight after the two teams clashed in a six-game playoff series in the first round 11 months ago. Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington downed the eighth-seed Maple Leafs in six games, five of which needed overtime. This year, Toronto shutout the Capitals 2-0 in their first meeting at Capital One Arena on October 17 before Alex Ovechkin powered the Capitals to a 4-2 victory at Air Canada Centre on November 25 with his 20th career hat trick. Puck drop is at 8 PM on NBC.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs will be without star center Auston Matthews, who injured his shoulder on February 22 and has missed the past three games. The Leafs have gone 1-0-2 since Matthews went down and are 7-4-2 without Matthews in the lineup this season. The 20-year-old center leads the Maple Leafs with 28 goals and is three points behind Mitch Marner for the team-lead despite only playing 53 games. Matthews tallied four goals and five points in the six-game first round playoff series against the Capitals last Spring.
After winning seven of their past eight games, the Maple Leafs have dropped two straight, though both of those losses came in overtime. The Leafs enter tonight one point behind the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division but Boston has four games in hand on the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs have a 17-point advantage over the Florida Panthers for third place in the division.
After a quiet start to the season, winger Mitch Marner has really started to pick it up. He recorded nine goals and 18 points in 14 games in February, including a five-point performance against the Ottawa Senators on February 10. Marner has 17 goals and 53 points in 66 games on the season.
The Maple Leafs rank third in the NHL with 218 goals and sixth with an average of 3.21 goals per game and added Tomas Plekanec, who has six goals and 24 points in 62 games, at the trade deadline from the Montreal Canadiens. Despite their loaded offense, Toronto only ranks 16th in the league with a 20.3 power play efficiency. On the defensive side, Toronto has given up an average of 34.1 shots per game; only the Panthers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders average more shots against than the Maple Leafs.
Fredrick Andersen will start in goal for the Maple Leafs. His .922 save percentage ranks ninth among all goaltenders in the league and his 32 wins rank fourth. He also has a 2.67 goals against average. On the season, he is 32-16-5 with five shutouts, good for third in the NHL. One of those came against Washington back on October 17 at Capital One Arena, where he stopped all 30 shots he faced. Lifetime against the Capitals, he is 3-0-1 with a .932 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average. His two career shutouts against the Caps are the most he has had against a single franchise.
The Capitals, making their Stadium Series debut, will play their final game before heading out on their California road trip, where they went 0-3-0 last season.
Washington was last in action on Tuesday, defeating the Senators by a 3-2 count. Tom Wilson notched his 11th goal of the season while Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice to match his 19 goals he recorded last season.
The Capitals come into this game winning two of their last three games and have won back-to-back home games for the first time since winning 10 in a row at home in December and January.
Alex Ovechkin recorded a hat trick against the Maple Leafs on November 25 and is three short of his 600th career goal coming into tonight. He has 36 goals and 63 points in 44 career games against Toronto and had three goals against the Maple Leafs in the postseason last April. Ovechkin can also hit the 40 goal plateau for the ninth time in his 13-year career.
Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. He has lost six games in a row, going 0-4-2 in that span and has given up 26 goals on 174 shots (0.851 save percentage in that span). His last victory came against Columbus on February 9, a 4-2 win. On the season, he is 28-14-4 with a .908 save percentage and a 3.02 goals against average. He is 7-3-1 with a .934 save percentage and a 2.05 goals against average with one shutout in his career against the Leafs.
-Tom Wilson has three goals in 14 career games and three goals in six career playoff games against the Maple Leafs. He is three points shy of 100 career points and has a career-high 11 goals and 28 points this season. Wilson is on pace for 14 goals and 36 points this season.
-The Capitals and Maple Leafs will each be playing in their third outdoor game tonight — both teams are undefeated in their previous outdoor contests. The Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at Heinz Field in 2011 NHL Winter Classic and the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 at Nationals Park at the 2015 NHL Winter Classic. The Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at Michigan Stadium at the 2014 NHL Winter Classic and defeated the Red Wings again 5-4 in overtime at BMO Field at the 2017 NHL Centenial Classic.
-The Capitals are 11-3-0 in their past 14 regular season games against the Maple Leafs over the past five seasons
A Look Back in Time
After the Maple Leafs took a 2-0 lead early in Game 1 of the first round playoff series last spring, former Capital Justin Williams cut the lead in half on a power-play goal with 7:36 left in the period. Williams struck again to tie the game at two in the second period. The game would go to overtime when Tom Wilson caught the puck with his hand when defenseman Martin Marincin tried to clear the zone and snapped a shot from the wall past Andersen’s glove to give Washington a 1-0 series lead. It was Wilson’s first career playoff goal.
By Harrison Brown