Alexander the Great comes to Toronto with a win in mind. In our case tying the season series against the Capitals means prolonging what little is left of our playoffs hopes. However, even a win tonight canâ€™t win the war against numbers. If Buffalo manages to beat Tampa, or even if that game goes into overtime the Leafs will officially be eliminated from the playoff race. Grab your voodoo paraphernalia, tarot cards, whatever other mumbo jumbo you might have and hope, just hope.
Storyline: Controlling What We Can
With the Buffalo game actually being the decider tonight, the Leafs have to control what they can at home against the mighty Capitals. Itâ€™s a much better feeling to know you did your part, even if it doesnâ€™t end up being enough after tonight. Just knowing they didnâ€™t eliminate themselves (and if they did it was prior to January 1st) tonight could mean a world of difference in the mental makeup of this team next year at this exact point of the season.
Keys To The Game
Making The Most Out Of A Given Opportunity: The Caps come into this one 25% less functional. Alexander Semin is being rested for the playoffs, Mike Green is still out with an undisclosed head injury (conscussion or turningthepuckoveritis), Dennis Wideman out with a hematoma in his right leg and with Tom Poti still on IR so this is likely the best chance we would have against the surging Caps at this particular point of the season. Washington is 16-3-1 in its last 20 games, including an 8-2-0 away record. Toronto is 12-5-3 in its last 20 games, including a 5-3-1 record when playing at home.
Line Matching: This is a home game and therefore Ron Wilson will have the last change at his disposal. Itâ€™s imperative that we put it to good use.Â Ovechkin had three points, including the overtime winner, in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Buffalo. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists on the night. Boudreau is a coach who loves to exploit line mismatches, thus having Ovechkin and Backstrom out there with the oppositionâ€™s weaker defensive players. We caught a break with Semin not playing because his absence limits the number of elite offensive options available to the Caps which would make said line matching harder on Wilson, even with the last change available. The Caps have a deadly group of top six forwards but their defensive lapses can be exploited. Outside of that, Wilson needs to be wary of the play of Marcus Johansson, a very good third line center with a bright future in this league.
Again, goaltending is an area in which the Leafs should have a clear cut advantage tonight. The expected battling duo is James Reimer for the Leafs and Michal Neuvirth for Washington. To say Neuvirth has been less than stellar recently is like saying James Reimer has been somewhat good of late. The Czech born netminder is 3-0-0, 3.47, .883 in last 3 games played, he grabbed the wins sure, but was very unconvincing in all three. On the other hand, Optimus Reim is 7-1-0, 2.11, .933 in last 8 games played and is fast becoming the most popular player on the current roster, a feat thatâ€™s well deserved.
Jan 22, 2011 @TOR WSH 4 TOR 1
Dec 6, 2010 @WSH TOR 5 WSH 4
Nov 3, 2010 @WSH WSH 5 TOR 4
Per AM 640â€²s Jonas Siegel:
MacArthur â€“ Grabovski â€“ Kulemin
Lupul â€“ Bozak â€“ Kessel
Kadri â€“ Boyce â€“ Crabb
Rosehill â€“ Brent â€“ Brown
Aulie â€“ Phaneuf
Gunnarsson â€“ Schenn
Lashoff â€“ Komisarek