Meanwhile, before the Maple Leafs play the Blue Jackets, they could enjoy the moment Saturday. Let’s dwell on that for a second. Squandering an early four-minute power play ended up hurting them as their energy dwindled in the final 25 minutes, and they couldn’t find an equalizer. There are going to all kinds of breakdowns, here at The Athletic and elsewhere, in the coming days, of how Toronto matches up against whoever they’ll face, Washington or Ottawa.
Babcock, perhaps not surprisingly, plans to spend lots of time before Thursday’s opener in D.C. detailing for his group what exactly is different about playoff hockey.
Now, the other part.
However, the Buds could have avoided a first-round date with the high-octane Caps by earning one point Sunday night versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Instead, as the second wild card team, they face the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin in the first round. At that point he was in the longest slump of his career and in the first period he took four shots that missed the net … It looked good for the Leafs through the middle of the game, as a pair of goals by James van Riemsdyk staked Toronto to a 2-0 lead.
Fourteen Capitals have more than 20 points including T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin, who both scored 33 goals this season.
RANGERS 3, PENGUINS 2: Jimmy Vesey scored a tiebreaking goal in the third period and NY won at home. All three were rookies this season, and Matthews has been the most electrifying of the trio with 40 goals and 29 assists, finishing second to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in the goal-scoring race. Sheahan didn’t have a goal in his first 79 games this year. Other than losing starting goalie Frederik Andersen, Saturday night was just about flawless.
Well, it wasn’t something you’d expect of the Leafs, if you’ve been around awhile. A regulation loss sends the Maple Leafs to Washington and the brutal Metropolitan Division side of the draw.
“Obviously (Matthews) is a special talent”, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said.
But the Leafs were 30th previous year, and they’re in.
Capitals’ Outlook: Once again, Washington is back on top of the league heading into the post-season as a favourite to win it all.
Said Jake Gardiner: “You gotta beat the best at some point so might as well do it in the first round”. Green and Semin were earlier first-round draft choices, and in 2006, the Capitals drafted Backstrom with the fourth overall pick. This is free money. “[Now] we’re playing a real good team”. That’s when it’s a completely different program. “For us older guys we’ve got a chance to win and for the youngest guys they battle for it right away”. The one thing Andersen has done that Holtby hasn’t is lead his team to the conference finals, which he did two years ago when he was with the Anaheim Ducks. Not sure what more you can do here, too.
The Leafs enter the playoffs with some injury issues and some questions about the fitness of Andersen and now Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak as well.
Ready for playoff hockey? And whatever happens, this is where it starts. I’ve watched these two play together the entire season and my major argument for making the switch is: where would Matthews production be if he didn’t have to carry a severely offensively limited player on his line? Insane things happen, and that can turn a series. We’re going to go into someone’s building and try to give them hell. I thought we had a couple of opportunities there and we chose not to. But we know how we lost games back then, before I was here. His arrival near the trade deadline on February 27 to bolster the Leafs’ fourth line and leadership group was a sign management decided the team was a playoff contender ahead of schedule. The Leafs are pretty good.