Sunday, December 5, 2010

Preview: Maple Leafs @ Capitals

I changed the introductory stats a bit. 5-on-5 shot differential is available from

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 18-8-2, 38 points
Leading scorers: Alex Ovechkin (11-23-34 in 28 GP), Alexander Semin (18-14-32 in 28 GP), Nicklas Backstrom (11-19-30 in 28 GP)
Goalies: Michal Neuvirth (12-4-1, 2.59, .911), Semyon Varlamov (4-2-0, 1.92, .934)
Shot differential: +3.5
5-on-5 shot differential: +3.1
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, D John Erskine
Player to watch: RW Eric Fehr

Toronto: 9-12-4, 22 points
Leading scorers: Clarke MacArthur (7-12-19 in 25 GP), Mikhail Grabovski (5-11-16 in 25 GP), Nikolai Kulemin (9-6-15 in 25 GP), Kris Versteeg (8-7-15 in 24 GP)
Goalies: Jean-Sebastien Giguere (6-5-2, 2.82, .893), Jonas Gustavsson (3-7-2, 2.66, .910)
Shot differential/game: +1.0
5-on-5 shot differential/game: -0.6
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Dion Phaneuf, F Mike Brown
Player to watch: F Phil Kessel

Season series:
11/3 Toronto 4 @ Washington 5 (SO)

Toronto is coming off a shootout victory over Boston, featuring an unprecedented half-hour of dominance capped by Phil Kessel's winner on Tim Thomas, while Washington has lost two straight, at Dallas and versus Atlanta.

1) Break through hot goalies. Toronto broke through a hot goalie in Tim Thomas. Washington has not in two games in a row. Three of the four goalies playing in this matchup I'd bet would have strong games given the chance (sorry, JS Giguere). I have a bad feeling both teams are going to be stoned by a hot goalie in this one. Well, either that or both (or more) will throw up stinkers.

2) Carlzner versus Kessel. Jeff Schultz tends to have trouble with small, shifty forwards. Phil Kessel fills that mold. And I think Kessel, despite his struggles this season, is still too dangerous to be countered with Hannan and Sloan/Erskine/Poti. That leaves John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who have been playing some fantastic hockey this season.

3) Power versus power, depth versus depth. Toronto can't match the Capitals' depth at any position. Play top line versus top line, top pairing versus top pairing, and this game should turn out nicely.

4) Slow it down. Toronto is a bit small up front. Washington is huge everywhere. Don't let Toronto's speedy forwards get loose like last time and this will look good.

5) Controlled entries. Although Toronto's defense may not look so good on paper, fact is their defensemen can move the puck decently out of the zone. Dumping and chasing will lead to a long, back-and-forth boring game played mostly in the neutral zone. Carrying the puck into the zone I think will be more successful. Think "cute," not "playoff hockey."

A team that has gotten shut out six of their last sixteen games? Just what the doctor ordered. Capitals 3, Leafs 1.

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