Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals: Game Notes

October 17th, 2017 No Comments

Heading into tonight’s tilt, the Toronto Maple Leafs landed in Washington with the top ranked offense in the NHL. At the other end, a combination of off-season roster losses due to salary cap issues which saw the likes of defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk leave Washington and an injury to veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen contributed to the Washington Capitals icing what resembled an AHL defense.

From our point of view, it was the perfect storm for a team of Toronto’s offensive ilk to strut their stuff and beat up on the Capitals. True to form, the Maple Leafs shredded the Capitals defense early on Tuesday night, creating eight quality scoring chances in the first nine minutes of play. Trouble is, despite their spirited start, the Maple Leafs failed to beat Capitals netminder Brayden Holtby.

When your team comes out and dominates the opposition’s defense the way the Maple Leafs did in that first period you expect to see the results on the scoreboard. Sadly, Toronto failed to score, culminating in three missed opportunities from in close, leaving many Leaf fans and players shaking their heads.

Despite the exciting start, when all was said and done, the Maple Leafs and Capitals emerged tied 0-0 after 20 minutes of play with the Maple Leafs leading the scoring chances 9-6.

While scoring chances, the Leafs ability to get behind the Capitals defense and Mitch Marner’s so-called “demotion” to the fourth line were the stories of the first period, the Leafs were hoping that the second period wrote a different story.

The Capitals started off the second period where they left off at the end of the first period, on the power play. The Caps failed to score, with Washington sniper Alexander Ovechkin missing the net from his favorite spot (why don’t teams take that spot away from OV on the power play?) late in the power play.

Marner found his way to the top line very early in the second period, briefly playing alongside Austin Matthews and William Nylander, perhaps putting to rest whether or not Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock would continue to “punish” Marner for what many have perceived as a lacklustre effort on defense from number 16 early on in the season.

The Leafs looked fantastic in the early portion of the second period, creating scoring chances and seemingly getting behind the Capitals defense at will…but still, no goals! Part of the problem was that both teams struggled to hit the net with numerous quality scoring chances heading wide of the net.

At the other end Maple Leafs’ netminder Frederik Andersen kept the Capitals in check, but truth be told, he wasn’t really pressured too much.

The Capitals got a late period power play when Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri got caught closing his hand on the puck at 14:11 of the second period. Washington failed to score and quickly took a penalty of their own when Capitals forward Nathan Walker got called for a holding minor at 16:48 of the second period against Kadri, who had returned from the penalty box a few seconds earlier.

The Maple Leafs generated a few scoring chances on the power play, but once again failed to score.

When the dust settled, the Leafs and Caps were tied 0-0 after two periods, not exactly what we were expecting from two teams as offensively gifted as Toronto and Washington, which had combined for 49 goals for and 41 goals against through 11 games played.

The third period started off with both teams exchanging power plays when Alex Ovechkin took a hi-sticking penalty against Kadri at 01:08 of the third followed by a slashing penalty from Tyler Bozak at 02:05 of the third period against Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly. Neither team was able to score.

Finally, the line of Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Connor Brown (who was elevated to the third line in favor of Marner for tonight’s game amongst some moaning and groaning from some of the Blue and White’s fans) put pressure on the Capitals with Brown depositing a wrist shot past Holtby at 14:07 of the third period. Eureka! Finally, we had the games’ first goal!

Toronto and Washington exchanged scoring chances for the next six minutes of play, with both goalies being called upon to make excellent stops.

Criticised for his early season numbers (or lack thereof) Andersen kept Washington off the scoreboard, making a huge save on Capitals sniper Evgeny Kuznetsov at 08:17 of the third period. Anderesen made three more big saves, stopping Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Christian Djoos all within 25 seconds of each other.

With the Capitals down 1-0, with 02:06 to go in the third the Capitals chose to pull netminder Holtby, giving them an extra attacker.

With the help of the Maple Leafs’ often-criticized defense in front of him, Andersen continued to close the door on the Capitals attack, as Kadri scored an empty netter, making the score 2-0 Toronto.

And just like that, Frederik Andersen and the Maple Leafs earned their first shutout of the season in what was a nail-bitter at times, but ended up being one of the Buds’ better games of the season.

At the end of the day, both Connor Brown and Mitch Marner played great games with Brown netting the game winner, playing a vital role on the penalty kill and Marner looking good on his line and on the power play. Toronto is now 5-1 to start the 2017-18 season and will face the Detroit Red Wings (4-2) in Toronto tomorrow night.

 

My Three stars:

  • Frederik Andersen
  • Nazem Kadri
  • Morgan Rielly

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