Toronto Maple Leafs outplayed by Capitals in Stadium Series game

ANNAPOLIS, MD - MARCH 03: John Carlson
ANNAPOLIS, MD - MARCH 03: John Carlson /

The Toronto Maple Leafs were outclassed by the Washington Capitals, losing their first outdoor game as Frederik Andersen was pulled for the first time this season.

Going into the latest Stadium Series showdown, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a great opportunity to show they are worthy of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.

The team has come a long way since their first round series loss last season to the Washington Capitals. However, there are still issues that were uncovered with the bright lights on both teams at the naval Academy, in a 5-2 pounding.

Those lights went out midway through the third period leading to a long delay; it appeared that the same happened to the Leafs, but much earlier in the game. The team was in a 3-1 hole after the first period and before they knew it they were out of it.

When Jakub Vrana was sent in alone on a breakaway, it was only a matter of time before the puck was going to be fished out of the net. Then something happened that Mike Babcock has never had to do at any point this season – yank Frederik Andersen.

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The only time Andersen has been pulled from a game was when Corey Perry‘s skate caught him on the jaw, forcing him to leave as an injury precaution. Other than that, the Leafs have never needed to get him out of a game.

It has been the most consistent story all season long – as long as the 28-year-old from Denmark is on his game, the Leafs have a chance. On some nights the Leafs’ offence has had to carry them, but for the majority of the season, Andersen has been consistent and dominant between the pipes.

The blame for Saturday night’s lopsided result should be spread around but given his track record this season, Andersen deserved better support from his teammates.

The team went 0-for-2 on the penalty kill, with Alexander Ovechkin scoring his 40th goal of the season. They were outclassed in the second period with the Capitals pouring on, including a breakaway goal by Vrana that took away any chance of a comeback.

The effort was not there and this was apparent to Babcock in his post game comments.

Once again Nikita Zaitsev was on for two goals against, as well as Ron Hainsey. The team missed assignments in front of the net and the Capitals looked like the faster team. The team has certainly missed their best player over the past eight games.

In the latest stretch as TSN’s Mark Master noted, without Auston Matthews, the Leafs are 2-4-2 (7-5-2 overall). However, the team has shown they have the depth to get over injuries and unfortunately they did not on Saturday night. Even the Boston Bruins have found a way without Patrice Bergeron in their lineup, so really there is no excuse for Toronto.

Babcock was not ready to let his team off the hook for this performance. He knows there a real opportunity to gain ground in the standings with the Bruins up three points, but still having games in hand.

The team will play their first of their four remaining games against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, which is a good opportunity for the Maple Leafs to come out with a bounce back effort.

Whether any changes are made to the lineup before that game still remains to be seen, but this was not an encouraging performance.

Next: Will Babcock’s tough love approach work with Nylander?

Is there any concern for the Toronto Maple Leafs after the loss against the Capitals? Let us know in the comments.