Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Preview: Maple Leafs @ Capitals

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 7-4-0, 14 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 7-6-13 in 11 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, D Tyler Sloan
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (7-3-0, 2.16, .926)
Player to watch: D Mike Green

Toronto: 5-5-1, 11 points
Leading scorer: Clarke MacArthur, 7-4-10 in 11 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 52.7%
Notable injuries/illnesses: F Colby Armstrong, D Dion Phaneuf
Probable starting goalie: Don't know. JS Giguere is 4-3-1, 2.38, .905 in 7 GP, Jonas Gustavsson is 1-2-0, 2.36, .921 in 3 GP
Player to watch: The Leafs' starting goalie

The Capitals finally take back to the ice on Wednesday night against a Maple Leafs squad that'll be flying in from Ontario, having played Ottawa Tuesday night. Toronto-Ottawa is always an emotional tilt, and the Capitals may luck out and get a drained, tired Leafs team to feast on at Verizon Center the following night. That being said, the Leafs' goalies can pitch a really good game any night, and when the Toronto defense clicks it's pretty good.

1) Who wins the even strength battle? Toronto is only allowing 2.36 goals and 26 shots per game, but scoring and shooting only similar amounts. The Capitals have better special teams units, so if the Caps can control even strength play too, they should be fine. Toronto had pretty good Corsi last year, so it may not come too easily.

2) Will Michal Neuvirth ever come back to Earth? He's been great thus far, but probably too good to be true, unfortunately. His high PK save percentage particularly stands out.

3) Will the Young Guns continue to click? In Calgary, all of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin played really well, and as a result they produced at both even strength and on the power play. Considering the Caps' bottom forwards haven't played all that well recently, the top line--and second line--need to continue to produce.

4) Who gets the tough matchups? At various points in this young season we've seen the 1st, 2nd, and 4th lines draw shutdown duties, along with the 1st or 2nd pairings. Against Calgary, without going power-versus-power, the top line seemed to click, but the Carlson-Alzner pairing didn't look particularly good. Considering the composition and recent success of the Semin-Laich-Knuble line and Green-Schultz pairing, maybe those five should be out there against Kessel.

5) Will anyone get hurt (knock on wood)? Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek, and Francois Beauchemin all have reputations as defensemen who love to play physically, riding the line between legal and illegal, and make a big hit when it is available. Although Phaneuf is out due to a deep gash in his left leg (best wishes to him for a speedy recovery), the Leafs may very well rally around their captain. The Capitals have some important players nursing or recently returned from injuries, and are a bit vulnerable as a result.

6) Will Dion Phaneuf pick up some points for my fantasy team? I hope he gets me lots of PIMs and SOGs, but nothing else. Well, apparently not.

Capitals 5, Leafs 2.

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