Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Washington Capitals Looking for Revenge
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.
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washington Capitals right wingAlex Ovechkin
(8) goes after the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs right wingPhil Kessel
(81) at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Capitals 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs beat the Capitals 6-2 in their last game against each other this season.
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Leafs Injury Report
Peter Holland is out with an upper-body injury.
Joffrey Lupul is out with a lower-body injury.
Nazem Kadri is questionable with a lower-body injury.
Capitals Injury Report
Matt Niskanen is questionable with a lower-body injury.
Dmitry Orlov is out with a wrist injury.
John Erskine is out with a neck injury.
A lot has changed since these two teams last played against each other, especially for the Leafs. The news of Randy Carlyle being fired by the Leafs was not a surprise for Leafs Nation. Peter Horachek and Steve Spott will have their hand full with the Capitals, who have gone 10-1-3 in their last 14 games. One of the reasons why the Capitals have been able to stay hot has been the play of Braden Holtby, who has a 2.05 GAA in his last 14 games.
Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have struggled lately without much help from their defence. It looks like Bernier will get the start as he attempts to get back to form. He has a 3.29 GAA during a 2-3-0 stretch. Against Washington earlier this season he made 35-saves. The Leafs will look to play more consistently, something that GM Dave Nonis was preaching yesterday when he addressed the media following Carlyle’s dismissal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save against Washington Capitals centerBrooks Laich
(21) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs WAS: 28 GP – 6 goals – 14 assist – 20 PTS
James Reimer career vs PIT: 6 GP – Record: 2-3 – 2.62 GAA – .922 SV%
Jonathan Bernier career vs PIT: 4 GP – Record: 3-1 2.01 GAA – .932 SV%
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Capitals 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Ovechkin career vs TOR: 34 GP- 27 goals- 22 assists- 49 PTS
Nicklas Backstrom career vs TOR: 25 GP- 4 goals- 19 assists- 23 PTS
Joel Ward career vs TOR: 14 GP- 3 goals- 4 assists- 7 PTS
Brooks Laich career vs TOR: 31 GP- 9 goals- 9 assists- 18 PTS
Brayden Holtby career vs TOR: 4 GP- Record: 2-1-1 1.76 GAA- .943 SV%
Juston Peters career vs TOR: 3 GP- Record: 1-1, 3.01 GAA- .897 SV%
Keys to Victory for Toronto
The Leafs have relied too much on their goaltending to keep them afloat this season and we have seen what happens when Bernier and Reimer are not on their game. It is time for the Leafs to put more emphasis on defence, especially with how they play in their own end. The Capitals will take advantage of extended time in the defensive zone, especially if the Leafs give them time and space to work with the puck.
Apr 8, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) and right wing Phil Kessel (81) talk against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are taking a lot of heat for Carlyle’s dismissal – especially Kessel, who is being labelled as uncoachable by the media. If they want to silence their critics they have to start playing the right way and show that their is hope for them to live up to their contracts.
The lines will be changed a lot with a new coaching staff in place, but how long will that last? We have seen Carlyle change the lines but quickly revert back to the old ones. This will be Nazem Kadri‘s chance to prove that he can take the number one center job and run with it.
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) celebrates with center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) after an assist against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs need to see Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner try to take the next step, because any improvements on defence will have to come from them. They, along with Cody Franson, are the game-changers on defence and now they have to show they can do it at both ends, not just on offence.
The Leafs should focus on playing better and not about wins and losses. They have shown an ability to play the right way, but that has not been done consistently. The one area that should be their main focus is defence and if they do that against the Capitals tonight, it could set them up with some momentum heading into their Pacific road trip next week.