In the NHL’s version of the Hunger Games, the odds are not in Toronto’s favour. I think it’ll be a real great series between two really quality clubs. Add to that the way he has convinced his team, including the rookies, to play defense and to mature as players without the puck, something especially tricky with youngsters.
This again: Holding onto leads is something the Maple Leafs haven’t done with almost enough consistency this season.
The Capitals had to wait until the last minute to find out who they would be playing: had the Leafs picked up a point last night vs Columbus, the Capitals would have found themselves playing the Bruins.
Toronto opens the playoffs on the road in Washington D.C. against the Capitals, where they’ll play two games. Finally the Washington Capitals know who they will be facing in Round 1.
Toronto has been a confident group all season, but there was still a twinge of disappointment over not being able to move as high as possible in the standings. They don’t lack confidence.
Had the Leafs earned just one point, they would have finished in third place in the Atlantic Division and squared off with the rival Ottawa Senators in the opening round. “They’re a smaller, skilled team compared to us. Yeah, it does remind me”. But the Leafs aren’t good enough defensively and they’re about to get steamrolled by the real deal. They have first-line players strewn throughout their entire lineup.
Nylander noted that his side had “nothing to lose going into the series” and Babcock observed something similar ahead of the game against Columbus when asked about pressure on his young team. “We just have to play our way and don’t give them obviously freedom and be patient”. Several poor seasons produced high draft choices in a rebuilding effort.
The Capitals won the season series against the Leafs, 3-1.
We’ll have a ton of posts over the next few days breaking down the Leafs chances against the Capitals, the postseason as a whole and more, so until then enjoy the sublime feeling of seeing the Leafs in the playoffs.
“I just know he is a hell of a player through watching him (from afar)”, the Columbus Blue Jackets coach said. Andersen did not play Sunday but is expected to start Game 1.
“That’s kind of how everything started out here”, defenseman Karl Alzner said.
“I think we have to move forward”.
“The playoffs are not going to be easy no matter how you skin the cat”, Leafs defenceman and former Capital Connor Carrick said. They seem to have a pretty good mixture of both early on, so it’s impressive for sure.
“A lot of those games (in the past month) were tight”, Babcock said. “So it’d be nice to maybe think how that happened”. With an exciting young core, though, the Maple Leafs are on track to put that history behind them.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk, second left, celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto, on Sunday, April 9, 2017.
Complementing the rookies, the Leafs have playoff veterans like Brian Boyle (with 100 career postseason games), who’ll be able to mentor the youngsters who haven’t been here before. “Sometimes you’re going to have some outside influence”. Overall, the Caps should be much better 5v5 as they have advantages in just about every position on the ice. Because when they freedom to go and freewheel then they’re deadly. The Leafs also lost defensemen Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak in Sunday’s regular-season finale, putting strain on an already thin defense.