Photo: USA Today
The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs faceoff for the final time this season when the two teams meet at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night. The Maple Leafs look to sweep the season set after winning 4-2 at Capital One Arena on October 13 and 6-3 at Scotiabank Arena on January 22. Action from Toronto can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Capitals continue a season-long six-game road trip and come back to the East coast after going 2-1-0 in California, most recently a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. Overall, the team is 2-2-0 during the road trip after losing three consecutive road contests. On the season, the Capitals are 16-11-2 away from home.
The Capitals had a strange Wednesday. After it appeared they would be placing forward Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers, they waived forward Devante Smith-Pelly instead. All signs point to a potential trade, which could occur on Thursday. The Capitals are looking around for a top-nine forward to bolster their depth up front. It has been reported that Jaskin or forward Andre Burakovsky, who has been in trade rumors all season, could be on the move. The team has until the NHL Trade Deadline, which is Monday at 3 PM ET, to make a move.
Captain Alex Ovechkin has nine goals and 17 points in his last 10 games. He is also riding a three-game goal-scoring streak, where he has posted four goals in that span, including two against the Kings on Monday. The 33-year-old leads the NHL with 42 goals and the Capitals with 69 points this season. He has posted three points, including two assists, in two games against Toronto this season. Defenseman John Carlson leads the Capitals with 45 assists this season.
The Capitals are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for seventh in the NHL with an average of 3.32 goals-per-game. After scoring a combined total of four goals in a span of four games in January, the team has scored at least three goals in 10 of their last 13 games since, averaging 3.08 in that span. They entered Wednesday three points behind the New York Islanders, who have two games in hand on the Capitals, for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and two points up on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have played the same amount of games as the Capitals have.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 20-15-4 with a save percentage of .907, a goals-against average of 3.04, and two shutouts this season, will likely start for the Capitals on Thursday. In his career against Toronto, the 29-year old is 8-5-1 with a save percentage of .923, a goals-against average of 2.41, and one shutout. He made 31 saves in the Caps’ 6-3 loss at the Maple Leafs in January.
The Maple Leafs begin a four-game homestand against the Capitals on Thursday. After the Capitals come to town, the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, and Edmonton Oilers are next on the slate for the Leafs. They are 17-11-1 on home ice this season. The Maple Leafs come home from a season-long six-game road trip, which they went 3-2-1 on, most recently a 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
After falling to the Boston Bruins in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs last season, they are currently two points behind the Bruins for second in the Atlantic Division, though they entered Wednesday with a game in hand on Boston.
Forward Mitch Marner leads the Maple Leafs with 48 assists and 69 points in 59 games this season, equalling his output set in 82 games last season. The 21-year old has posted at least 19 goals and 60 points in his first three NHL seasons. Center John Tavares leads the Maple Leafs with 33 goals this season and is only five behind his career-high which was set in 2014-15 with the New York Islanders. Center Auston Matthews’ average of 1.20 points-per-game is the highest on the Maple Leafs and is tied for 11th in the NHL.
The team’s average of 3.53 goals-per-game ranks fourth in the NHL and their faceoff winning percentage of 52.6 is second in the NHL only behind the Philadelphia Flyers’ 55.9 winning percentage. Despite the fact that they rank ninth in the NHL with an average of 2.83 goals-against per game, the team added defenseman Jake Muzzin to bolster their defense core on January 28. In 60 games with the Kings and Maple Leafs this season, the 29-year old has potted five goals, 25 points, and a +15 rating, including one goal, four points, and a +5 rating in 10 games with Toronto. Defenseman Morgan Reilly’s 15 goals are tied with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for the NHL lead among defensemen while his 57 points are tied with Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano for second in the NHL.
Goaltender Fredrik Andersen, who is 27-12-3 with a save percentage of .923, a goals-against average of 2.57, and one shutout this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Thursday. In seven career outings against the Capitals, the 29-year old netminder is 5-1-1 with a save percentage of .916, a goals-against average of 2.76, and two shutouts. He made 41 saves in the Maple Leafs’ 6-3 win over the Capitals a month ago.
-Carlson is one goal shy of passing Larry Murphy (86) for sixth place among Capitals defensemen
-The Capitals have killed 24 of the 28 penalties they have faced (85.7), which ranks seventh in the NHL and lead the NHL in blocked shots (178) since Feb. 1
-In 47 career games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Alex Ovechkin has 67 points (38 goals). His 38 goals are the most goals he has against a single opponent the Capitals haven’t shared a division with since 2005-06, and he has two career hat tricks against the Maple Leafs
A Look Back In Time
Down 2-1 in the series, the Capitals roared out to a 4-1 lead in the first period and got two-goal performances from forwards Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie en route to a 5-4 win. Ovechkin also scored in the first period. Holtby made 30 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown.