The Washington Capitals host the high scoring Toronto Maple Leafs at 7PM EST at Capital One Arena. While Washington has had the upper hand the last couple seasons on the Leafs including a playoff series victory in 2017 and a win in the Outdoor Classic, Toronto is a different team this season as they are 4-1 and have recorded three wins on the road so far while scoring at will.
This season vs the Leafs the Capitals will face a very familiar foe in ex Islander John Tavares. Tavares has started out on fire with 10pts and 6 goals in 5 games. Playing on a line with the very dangerous Mitch Marner, who also has 10pts on 3 goals, the Leafs have taken one out of the Capitals playbook and now have 2 lines that could be number one on any team. Auston Matthews' line with running mate Patrick Marleau is also hot with Matthews leading the NHL in early scoring with 12 points. His 9 goals come on only 17 shots so the Caps will need to prevent the Leafs franchise player, who has been a beast this year, from shooting from his hotspot which is very similar to Ovechkin's off the faceoff circle. Ovechkin scored 9 last season in the teams first 5 games so Caps fans know all about a hot shooter.
The Capitals will look to bounce back after being shutout vs New Jersey on Thursday night. The Caps looked bad on the second end of a back-to-back and although losing 6-0 you couldn't fault goalie Pheonix Copley as the Caps looked like a team skating in mud. The Devils are a fast skating team and the Caps will now face more of a quick puck moving team in the Leafs which is more suitable to the Caps game. I expect this to be a high scoring game with the Capitals depth on defense being the key. Toronto gives up a lot of chances as they have had trouble defending their zone so far and goalie Frederik Andersen has been busy so far facing 122 shots. His .893 SV% and 3.28 GAA are numbers you don't want to see from your starter however. Look for the Caps to wear down the Leafs D and a create scoring chances off the boards as it seems Andersen is facing high quality scoring chances. Leafs coach Mike Babcock can't be thrilled with his teams defence.
The Capitals reap the benefit of having one of the premiere scoring defenseman in the league on John Carlson. One member of the Leafs blueline that's opening eyes so far offensively is Morgan Reilly. The rearguard has 12 points which sets a new NHL record for defense scoring after first 5 games overtaking the great Bobby Orr who had 11. Now Reilly is no Orr, but the Caps will need to keep him from moving the puck and setting up on the PP.
Coming off the shutout loss to New Jersey, Coach Todd Reirden has shuffled the lines with Brett Connolly going back to his usual spot on 3rd line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky. Chandler Stephenson moves up to skate with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin in a move that will bring some speed to the top line. Stephenson has the ability to spot duty on the top line with his offensive awareness and defensive positioning as he was in that spot vs Pittsburgh in playoffs as Wilson was suspended. He'll match up well with Patrick Marleau's speed. Connolly being reunited on the 3rd line is more about getting that line going then necessarily demoting Connolly. That line was a huge presence in last springs Cup run as they create mismatches for other teams 3rd line and look to matchup well against the Nazem Kadri line.
The Caps will need to stay out of the box as much like Washington the Maple Leafs boast a very dangerous power play currently 1st in the NHL at a 50% clip scoring 7 goals on 14 opportunities so far. The Caps PK will be tested, but with the new addition of Kuznetsov to the PK , the Caps will counter-attack the Leafs.
Braden Holtby is back in net tonight.