NHL Playoffs: Leafs giving Caps similar problems that the Penguins do
Are the Washington Capitals living up to their reputation of being playoff chokers?
Or are they just running into a bad matchup?
A week from now regarding the Capitals we’re either going to be talking about the Capitals getting pushed in Round 1 potentially being a positive for them moving forward or discussing a shocking Round 2 matchup between the Penguins and Leafs.
Whether the Leafs can finish the job remains to be seen but the Leafs were badly overlooked in this series, many predicted a sweep, just from the standpoint the Capitals are the President Trophy winners and Toronto’s best players are a bunch of kids.
Last post-season the Capitals struggled against a Penguins team built with skill and speed.
What does Toronto have?
The Leads are certainly not the Penguins but like Pittsburgh they have more speed than the Capitals and a lot of high-end skill.
This is a really good forward group with a ton of talent.
Auston Matthews and William Nylander on one line, a dynamic 1-2 center/winger punch that’s already one of the best in the league. Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk on another scoring line. The Kadri line can give you a little bit of everything and the Kasperi Kapanen addition on the 4th line late in the season has given Toronto a needed speed and skill dimension to what had been more of a grit line before Kapanen was given a full-time role.
The Hyman-Matthews-Nylander line is the top possession line among all 16 teams in the playoffs.
On the backend, Toronto has skill and puck movers who can join the offense and fuel the transition game.
When you breakdown the personnel this is not a great matchup for the Capitals at 5 v 5 and that’s kind of playing out so far through three games where the Leafs have outscored the Capitals 8-5 during 5 v 5 play.
A key stat in this series.
The Leafs are 5th in the playoffs in creating high danger chances, Washington is 12th.
The game might not get called the right way but the NHL has evolved into a speed and skill game. The Leafs have a little bit more of it and are making things quite interesting.
The Leafs are creating Grade-A chances in the high danger areas and their speed to track the puck is stalling the Capitals breakout, another area Washington struggled last spring against the Penguins in their playoff ouster.
Still, like what happened with Columbus in Game 3 where a Vezina Trophy winning goaltender has to find a way to close the door when given a 3-1 lead, even if their respective club is getting outplayed, Braden Holtby also couldn’t get the job done for the Capitals in their Game 3 loss.
The Year of the Ducks?
— A down season in the Western Conference where there’s no clear cut powerhouse team, has two favorites Chicago and Minnesota both down 3-0 and on the brink of elimination.
The door is wide open for the Ducks, up 3-0 over the Flames, to finally breakthrough and get out of the West.
Edmonton is the most interesting team in the playoffs.
Speaking of the Flames, things are playing out where they’ll be back in the goaltending market this summer. No chance they see Brian Elliott as the guy who can get them to the next level.
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