NHL Playoff Predictions: Washington vs. Toronto

Look, nobody likes a good underdog story like I do. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the biggest underdogs in these playoffs, but that is only because they are playing the Stanley Cup favourites, the Washington Capitals. Not the best matchup for them, of course. Why couldn’t they have just beaten the god damn Columbus Blue Jackets and played the Ottawa Senators in the first round so that the Leafs could have played the Capitals in the second round? Who knows. Let’s predict (don’t hate me Leafs fans)!

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

  1. WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. WC2. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

WASHINGTON:
55-19-8 118 PTS (1st in NHL)
Goals For – 263 (3rd)
Goals Against – 182 (1st)
Last 10: 8-2-0

TORONTO:
40-27-15 95 PTS (14th)
Goals For – 251 (5th)
Goals Against – 242 (22nd)
Last 10: 6-4-0

The best defensive team with one of the best goalies against a high scoring young Leafs team who may not know what defense is. This is going to be a high scoring series – for one team anyways.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

WASHINGTON:
Power Play – 23.2% (3rd)
Penalty Kill – 84.1% (6th)

TORONTO:
Power Play – 23.8% (2nd)
Penalty Kill – 82.3% (9th)

This is going to be a special teams master class between these two teams. It’s going to be intriguing to see how the top power plays will fare against the top penalty kills. If the Leafs can contain Backstrom and his 35 points on the PP, as well as the other guy (it’s Ovechkin), then they’ll have a great shot at winning one game in this series. If not, this could get ugly.
Advantage: WSH

GETTING THE PUCK ON NET:

WASHINGTON:
Shots For: 30.0/game (17th)
Shots Against: 27.6/game (3rd)
Shooting %: 10.6% (1st)

TORONTO:
Shots For: 31.5/game (4th)
Shots Against: 32.2/game (27th)
Shooting %: 9.6% (8th)

The numbers look good for a lot of shots and goals in this series. A lot of high action, with two goaltenders who can hold their own against this firepower. The Capitals are the best defensive team in the league and their shot suppression is impressive, however, the Leafs are known for their high shot totals too. The amount of shots the Leafs give up in a game might be their downfall though, especially against a team with the highest shooting percentage in the league.
Advantage: WSH

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Nov. 26th – 4-2 TOR
Jan. 3rd – 6-5 WSH (OT)
April 4th – 4-1 WSH

INJURIES:

WASHINGTON:
John Carlson – Day-to-Day, but probable for Game 1 (Lower Body)

TORONTO: 
Frederik Andersen – Day-to-Day, but probable for Game 1 (Upper Body)
Roman Polak – Day-to-Day (Lower Body)
Nikita Zaitsev – Day-to-Day (Upper Body)

SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EST):
Game 1: Thursday, April 13th: 7:00 PM (CBC, USA)
Game 2: Saturday, April 15th: 7:00 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 3: Monday, April 17th: 7:00 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 4: Wednesday, April 19th: 7:00 PM (CBC, NBCSN)
Game 5: Friday, April 21st: TBD*
Game 6: Sunday, April 23rd: TBD*
Game 7: Tuesday, April 25th: TBD*
*If necessary

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

The Leafs were an entertaining team for the 2016-2017 regular season, and they deserve a better fate in the first round then the Washington Capitals. Beat them though, and they’ve slain the Eastern Conference dragon and who knows what will happen. The Washington Capitals are President Trophy winners for a reason, and as long as they get solid goaltending and Alex Ovechkin doesn’t disappear, they should win the cup this year, or at least get to the Stanley Cup finals. The Leafs will win a game, likely game 4 when their season is on the line. Washington in 5.

*All stats courtesy of http://www.hockey-reference.com

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