Home 2017 NHL Playoffs Leafs Links: Sizing up the Capitals, 10 out of 10 ESPN writers...

Leafs Links: Sizing up the Capitals, 10 out of 10 ESPN writers pick Washington over Toronto

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 4: Leo Komarov #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs checks Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals during the first period at the Air Canada Centre on April 4, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoff schedule, predictions, and previews for the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Leafs Links

Leafs Notebook – Getting Ready for Washington – April 10 (MLHS)
The key to the series at 5v5 might very well come down to the Bozak line forcing Trotz to pick his poison on who to match up against, possibly freeing up the Matthews line. What makes playing Washington so difficult is that — regardless of what forward line is drawn as a matchup — they can get away with matchup mistakes because their defense is seven deep. This is the toughest matchup in the East the Leafs could have drawn. It is hard to imagine them winning this series, but it will be a good experience to go up against the best regardless.

Leafs vs. Capitals – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Schedule (MLHS)
The Capitals are also the team dealing with the highest pressure to win it all — having yet to advance past the second round in the Ovechkin era — and they’re now matched up against the team with the least to lose. Three losses in their last four aside, the Leafs’ record down the stretch suggests they are taking strides at the right time of year. They’ve got a good starting goalie (provided he’s healthy), excellent special teams, a deep forward group, and one of the best coaches in the league behind the bench. And they’re playing with house money.

Experts’ first-round picks for the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs (ESPN.com)

Game #74 Review: Toronto Marlies 4 vs. Rochester Americans 3 (MLHS)
Toronto closed out their season series against the Rochester Americans, who had given them trouble throughout the year, in their last home game of the regular season at the Ricoh on Sunday. The win ensures Toronto will finish at least as high as second place in the North and edges them closer to the division title with two games left.

Leafs will try to become next big underdog to make big splash (Sportsnet)
“Well I think it’s a way different thing for our team,” Babcock said. “What happens, you have nerves when you win the Presidents’ Trophy and you’re playing a real good team in the first round. That’s when it’s a totally different program. “We’re so far away from that program, though. We’ve got two years left before that happens.” It was a not-so-subtle way of pointing out that Washington has a burden to carry into this best-of-seven while his kids attempt to fly as far as their talent and enthusiasm can take them. It’s a smart tone to set if you’re Babcock.

Leafs drop finale, face Capitals in first round (TSN)
“You have to beat the best at some point,” said Jake Gardiner. “Might as well do it in the first round.” 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. Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Blue Jackets were in the midst of a six-game losing skid that left them vulnerable.

[Paywall] Facing NHL’s best in playoffs may benefit young Leafs (The Athletic)
The ACC crowd began the, “We Want Ottawa!” chant early in the first period, but to no avail. A single point would have set up a Leafs-Senators first-round series. And on paper, the Senators looked to be a much more beatable first round opponent. They’ve lost six of their last nine and are the only playoff team with a negative goal differential. But a Leafs’3-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets determined their postseason fate. Off to Washington, they go.

Leafs fans could travel to D.C. for less money than a home playoff game in Toronto (SB Nation)
Toronto opens the playoffs on the road in Washington D.C. against the Capitals, where they’ll play two games. The prices between the two cities is staggering, from $41 for Game 1 in Washington and $239 for Game 3 in Toronto, and it’s just enough of a difference that it’d actually be cheaper to travel to D.C. than to go to a home game.

With playoffs clinched, Leafs arrive ahead of schedule (The Globe and Mail)
 Shanahan and general manager Lou Lamoriello shifted the rebuild job into a higher gear this season after the last-place finish in 2015-16 netted Matthews with the first overall draft pick. With Matthews and fellow flashy rookies Mitch Marner and William Nylander, along with Andersen, the new No. 1 goaltender, and holdovers including Nazem Kadri, van Riemsdyk and Rielly, the Leafs were expected to be much better. However, not many expected to see a playoff spot this fast. But Matthews exploded out of the gate with four goals in his first NHL game and is now the leading contender for the NHL’s rookie-of-the-year award. No one will be surprised if Marner or Nylander are finalists behind Matthews.

What would the playoffs look like with a three-point system? (The Hockey News)
A team like the Maple Leafs, who had 22 games decided in extra time, may have pushed for a few more regulation wins. And with only four points in the reimagined standings separating Toronto from third-place Ottawa, a few extra regulation wins could have made all the difference in that regard. There’s no telling how the point totals would change if three points were up for grabs every night, but it’s safe to say some games would have changed in the late stages

How the Canadian teams stack up in Round 1 (CBC)
Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak are the only players who remain from the Maple Leafs team that suffered a third-period meltdown in Beantown four years ago when they lost Game 7 in overtime … Toronto staggered in the final week with three losses in four games … The Capitals have won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies, yet they haven’t advanced past the second round since Alex Ovechkin joined the team in 2005 … The big concern for Toronto is goalie Frederik Andersen, who took another knock on his noggin on Saturday for his second head injury in three weeks. He’s expected to start in the opener on Thursday.