Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Washington Capitals


We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.

Washington Capitals (9-8-4) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (11-8-3), 7:00 p.m., CBC

The Capitals have won three out of their last four games against the Maple Leafs.

Leafs Injury Report

Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain.

Roman Polak is out with a knee injury.

Projected Line Combinations (Leafs)

Capitals Injury Report

Mike Green day-to-day with an upper-body injury

Brooks Laich doubtful with a shoulder injury

John Erskine doubtful with an undisclosed injury

Game Preview

Nov 23, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Peter Holland (24) battles for the puck against Washington Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer (20) at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Capitals 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs will get another tough test on Saturday with Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals coming to town for the first time this season. The Leafs and Capitals are both struggling to be consistent defensively and their goaltenders have had up and down seasons so far.

The Leafs are coming off a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins where they came back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime but Blake Comeau‘s hat-trick proved to be too much as the Leafs were able to salvage a point. It was their fifth point in their past three games.

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The Leafs will begin a five-game home stand where it has not always been smooth sailing for them. One area that the team will hope to improve on is their power play which has only one goal on 23 chances over their last six games.

The Capitals are coming off a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom leading the charge this season. Backstrom leads the team with 22 points, Ovechkin is right behind him with 21 points. The last time the Capitals played the Leafs in Toronto, James Reimer came away with the victory in a shootout with the Capitals directing 50 shots on Reimer.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel career vs WAS: 27  GP – 6 goals – 12 assist – 18 PTS

James van Riemsdyk career vs WAS:15  GP – 5 goals – 5 assists – 10 PTS

Joffrey Lupul career vs WAS: 17 GP- 6 goals- 13 assists- 19 PTS

James Reimer career vs PIT: 6 GP – Record: 2-3 – 2.62 GAA – .922 SV%

Jonathan Bernier career vs PIT: 3 GP – Record: 2-1  2.01 GAA – .925 SV%

Washington Capitals

Nov 23, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Capitals 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Ovechkin career vs TOR: 33 GP- 27 goals- 22 assists- 49 PTS
Nicklas Backstrom career vs TOR: 24 GP- 4 goals- 17 assists- 21 PTS
Joel Ward career vs TOR: 13 GP- 3 goals- 4 assists- 7 PTS
Troy Brouwer career vs TOR: 13 GP- 4 goals- 2 assists- 6 PTS
Brayden Holtby career vs TOR: 3 GP- Record: 2-0-1 0.97 GAA- .968 SV%

Juston Peters career vs TOR: 2 GP- Record: 1-1- 2.51 GAA- .924 SV%

Keys to Victory for Toronto

Nov 23, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) keeps the puck out of the net as center Peter Holland (24) and defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) help out in front of the net against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals would love nothing more than to have the Leafs take unnecessary penalties. They rank second behind the Penguins in power play percentage this season at 28.6%. They lead the league in power play percentage on the road at 35%.

The Leafs have a 83.7% penalty kill rate at home this season and 84.2% overall. If there is one battle the Leafs need to win it is the special team battles. The Leafs have been struggling to produce on the power play recently which is something Randy Carlyle has taken notice to. The Capitals have a 75% penalty kill rate on the road which ranks them 23rd in the league. The Leafs have now experimented with Nazem Kadri as one of the point man on the first power play unit something the coaching staff hopes can spark something.

The Leafs top line has been quiet the last few days which has not hurt the Leafs as much because of the production from the line featuring Kadri, Mike Santorelli and Leo Komarov. Carlyle had this to say about the top line;

Nov 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) handles the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs center Mike Santorelli (25) and winger Leo Komarov (47) chase during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs had a hard time defending the two-headed monster in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and it will have a hard time doing that against Ovechkin and Backstrom. When it comes to how the top line can try to lift the Leafs to victory it simply comes down to being smarter with the puck. Create more offensive zone time with the cycle, the Penguins did a good job moving the puck quickly forcing the Leafs to chase them all over the zone. The capitals are not the best defensive team so it could be a good opportunity for the Leafs to get their top line going.

Jan 10, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When your team is going up against elite talent it is up to your elite players to so whatever it takes to get a win. It the top line is quiet against the Capitals then it will be a difficult game for the Leafs to win.

The Leafs need their goaltender (most likely Bernier) to make the big save early. It did not happen against the Penguins and it has to happen against the Capitals. The Leafs have a hard time coming back from a deficit so getting off to a good start will be extremely important.