The Toronto Maple Leafs Have Surprised the NHL and the Washington Capitals. Here are Some Reasons as to Why They Can Win Game Three.
The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched their spot in the playoffs in the second last game of the year, game 81. The Washington Capitals clinched their spot 10 games earlier, in game 71. The Maple Leafs finished in last place last year and are the lowest-seeded team to make the playoffs this year. The Capitals have won the President’s Trophy, as the top team during the regular season, the past two years. The expectations were that the Capitals would sweep the Maple Leafs, but after both games in Washington needed overtime, the series is tied 1-1 and heading to Toronto for games 3 and 4. Does a win in game two mean the Maple Leafs can eliminate the Capitals? What will Maple Leafs need to defeat the Goliath of the NHL regular season?
Apr 4, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) carries the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre. Washington defeated Toronto 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Auston Matthews‘ playoff debut didn’t go the same way as his regular season debut against the Ottawa Senators. The 2017 first pick overall got a shot on goal, with a -1 rating in 18:09 on the ice in the Maple Leafs overtime loss. The 19-year-old rookie followed his playoff debut with a better defensive game while adding four shots on goal in 27:49 on the ice in the Maple Leafs double overtime win. After scoring 40 goals and adding 29 assists for 69 points, Matthews has been held off the scoresheet in the first two games. The Maple Leafs will need the regular season scoring leader to start producing to win against the Capitals. Especially when the Capitals will be starting last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Braden Holtby every night.
Frederick Andersen has been unbelievable for the Maple Leafs and will need to continue to be in order for the Maple Leafs to win against the Capitals. The Danish netminder stopped 41 of 44 shots in game one and 47 of 50 shots, recording 2.29 goals against average and .936 save percentage in the first two games. His Capitals counterpart, Braden Holtby posted similar 2.29 goals against average and .932 save percentage while facing six fewer shots. If the Maple Leafs win game three, it will be because Andersen continues his strong play against one of the best goalie in the world.
The Maple Leafs rookies will be playing in their first ever playoff game at home. The Toronto crowd will be electric and will definitely spark the Maple Leafs team, but it can’t allow them to stray away from their game plan. The Maple Leafs came on strong and controlled the majority of the pace through the first 30 minutes of game one. They need to play their game and listen to Mike Babcock and not allow the mental game of the home crowd. They also can not allow themselves to get too overconfident knowing that they can win against the Capitals. The Maple Leafs rookies William Nylander, Nikita Zaitsev, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman, and Mitch Marner have a strong veteran presence in Brian Boyle and have Babcock guiding them through this journey.
If the Maple Leafs can continue to play the hockey they’ve been playing through game one and two, they might just find a way to be up 2-1 in the series after game three.