We’re just past the quarter pole of the season and the Capitals and Maple Leafs find themselves in a similar boat. Both have winning records, are routinely outshot, receive good goaltending, and shoot at a near-10%-or-above success rate. The two teams are within a couple of points of each other in the Eastern Conference standings and both likely figure into the “middle tier” of the East when all is said and done. It’s worth noting that the Capitals, remarkably, only have seven wins in regulation or overtime. They’ve really bore down on the second point in the shootout with five shootout wins through 23 games. That’s 42% of their total wins, friends.
A few game day notes:
– Tyler Bozak skated this morning but does not sound probable for tonight. Apparently he was seen limping at the practice rink yesterday.
– Randy Carlyle looks to be reuniting McClement, Raymond and Kulemin as his matchup line against the threat of the NHL goals leader Alex Ovechkin and his point-a-game center Nicklas Backstrom.
– Peter Holland was arguably the Leafs‘ most dangerous forward on Thursday and will rejoin Kessel and JvR on the top unit according to the practice lines. The Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson line we haven’t seen as much of as we have hoped (or at all? Can’t remember, too many line iterations) is expected to be a thing based on the practice lines.
Morning lines: JVR-Holland-Kessel. Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson. Raymond-McClement-Kulemin. McLaren-Smithson-Orr.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 23, 2013
– Mark Fraser is expected to return to the lineup in Rielly’s place. Not a fan, but this is probably a move geared towards the PK struggles.
– James Reimer will get the start. He’s 1-3 against the Capitals in his career, but won in his most recent meeting with the Capitals in January of 2013. Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. He’s 10-7 with a .923 save percentage.
– Ovechkin coming into town is a scary prospect for the Leafs‘ penalty killing units especially, which have receded this month in their killing efficiency (75% for the month, down to 16th in the league at 82.4%). Ovechkin leads the league in powerplay goals with eight on the season, a major part of Washington’s second-best 24.2% conversion rate on the powerplay.
– The Capitals’ second line of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich and Martin Erat is a collective -14 and has been a source of frustration toward head coach Adam Oates among Capitals fans.
– The Capitals defence isn’t the sturdiest group 1-6 and the team gives up more than their fair share of shots. In fact, only .6 of a shot less than the Leafs per game. With the likes of Cam Schilling, Alex Urbom, Tyson Strachan and Dmitri Orlov in the lineup to varying degrees, the Capitals’ D has been light on NHL experience in the early season. The Caps did get Mike Green back for last night’s game against Montreal and demoted Orlov to Hershey.
– Getting bailed out by Braden Holtby and relying on the shootout despite getting outplayed and outshot has been the big concern in Washington. For while they’re a dangerous team, Washington is also very beatable. Mikhail Grabovski has not turned the Capitals into a Corsi superpower that out possesses other teams into the ground, as it turns out.
– This is one opponent where, should the game turn into a track meet of traded chances, you don’t necessarily like the Leafs’ chances, especially with Toronto not firing on all cylinders at the moment with just 15 goals in their last 8 games. The Capitals have scored just two in their last two games, but it’s still a top 10 offense that’s equipped with Alex Ovechkin (26 points), Nicklas Backstrom (24 points) and a third line providing ample scoring depth in Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward (combined 47 points).
– Obligatory Grabovski audio from after he was bought out:
– A few boo birds were out at the ACC on Thursday night after the team fell apart vs. Nashville on home ice, where they had been infallible for much of the first quarter (8-2) before Thursday). Let’s hope the ACC can remain a fortress for the Leafs going forward, starting tonight.
– Perhaps the Leafs can jump on Washington early, for a couple of reasons: The Capitals will be playing their second game in as many nights after a 3-2 loss to Montreal in Washington last night. Washington has also conceded the first goal in 13 of 23 games, whereas the Leafs have scored the first goal in 14 of 22.