Photo: Associated Press

Hours worth of reading as we close in on 48 hours until Game 1 puck drop.

Leafs Links

Pre-scouting the Washington Capitals Power Play (MLHS)
What the Leafs can learn here is the importance of pressuring the half-walls and rotating their PK at the same time to take away lanes and openings (and I think they have the forwards to do it in Zach Hyman, Leo Komarov, Connor Brown, and Kasperi Kapanen). For the majority of the season, Toronto has primarily clogged up the shooting lanes up top and lightly pressured the half-wall at times, pushing the play down the zone. They’ll have to amp it up this series to have success here.

Mike Babcock: “We’re going to Washington, and we plan on winning” (MLHS)
Let’s get going! You’re here. You have an opportunity. I told the young guys today, when you’re a young guy, you think, “oh next year, next year.” Next year never comes in sport. You make good on the opportunities you get. You put everything into it, and if it doesn’t go your way, you regroup. But put everything into it here. We’ve got an opportunity just like they do. We’re going to put our skates on just like they do. We’re going to Washington, and we plan on winning.

‘What’s next’ in the Shan-a-plan for Leafs? (Toronto Sun)
“He scores four goals and the first thing he says when he comes to face the press is, he let his man go in overtime,” said Shanahan. “As much as you walk away from that night and you remember that incredible rookie debut, I think that spoke almost as much to us and to his teammates and to other players in the league. He was telling you who he was. He’s never wanted to be away from his teammates or be separated from his teammates. And that’s what we’re trying to create here, a team.

Line-by-line: Canadian teams in the first round (TSN)
One thing to watch: the Leafs have dedicated themselves to a blue-line balance all year, predominantly splitting the strengths of Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly. One of those two pairings – historically it’s been Gardiner, but we’ll see – is going to get some softer minutes with real opportunity. If that’s the only time the Leafs can push the Capitals back, then they’re going to need a monstrous effort from that group in order to make this series a contest.

Lucky Leafs can’t lose against Capitals (Toronto Star)
The Leafs can win or win in this series. Only the Caps, really, have anything to lose here, and won’t it be fun to watch Alex Ovechkin and his buddies squirm if the Leafs somehow manage to make this more of a series than most expect it to be? The Caps have done nothing but disappoint in the post-season for a decade, always coming up short, always revealing a major vulnerability, and always with Ovechkin failing to come up big.

The five Canadian teams vying for the Stanley Cup, or not (CTV)
Pick: Capitals in six. One team is just trying to gain some playoff experience while the other chases a first Stanley Cup. The Capitals are the latter and while heavy pressure rests on their shoulders, their depth and experience should help them prevail over the young Leafs. About half of Toronto’s likely Game 1 lineup will be experiencing playoff hockey for the first time and how exactly they respond is a mystery, even to head coach Mike Babcock. The Leafs have plenty of high-end skill with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, but the Caps are deep up front too with Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams and the always-overlooked Nicklas Backstrom.

Pundits, alumni weigh in on Leafs’ Round 1 chances against the Capitals (MLHS)
Mike Halford: “You’ve got Washington, fully cognizant that GM Brian MacLellan said they have a two-year window and this is year two to win the Stanley Cup. The Shattenkirk trade adds a tonne of pressure to it. I think everything that happens in the Eastern Conference always circles back to the Capitals. I remember when Kris Letang got hurt and one of the questions we wrote about was, “Does this make Washington an even bigger favourite?” I think this could really play to the Leafs’ advantage.”

[Paywall] How the Leafs might beat the powerhouse Capitals (The Athletic)
The NHL’s playoff format has changed, but Washington versus Toronto is a classic one versus eight match-up from the old system. I’m going to be picking Washington in this series, in six games, but I don’t think this will be a blowout. The Leafs played two strong games against the Capitals earlier this season before struggling in last week’s loss, on the second game of a back-to-back. Overall, Toronto was 1-1-1 against them.

Leafs will have hands full with more than just Ovechkin (
The Washington Capitals have plenty more in their arsenal and it’s going to be a monumental task for the Leafs to keep every talented Capital in check starting in Game 1 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday night. “They have a lot to throw at you,” Leafs defenceman Connor Carrick said. “We just want to go out and assert our game early in the series, do things we do well and put some doubt, (and try to) steal one from them.”

Time for old pals Komarov and Ovechkin to get reacquainted (Toronto Sun)
“He’s tough to play against, the best player in the league,” Komarov said as the Leafs prepare for Game 1 of their playoff series against Ovechkin and the Caps on Thursday at the Verizon Center. “We’ve played together, we know each other and I have been playing against him since I can remember. In the world championships (Komarov for Finland, Ovie for Russia), he’s there every time.”

Leo Komarov a special player for Maple Leafs (
“He’s real important for us,” Babcock said. “We have a lot of young guys and young and heavy don’t tend to go together. You learn to get heavy on your stick and strong in battles over time. Leo’s a guy who is effective for us, he’s ultra-competitive. The bigger the games are, the harder he plays.”

Leafs face a Washington Capitals team on a mission (National Post)
Who wins? Don’t expect the Caps to be lulled into thinking the Leafs are just happy to be here. They’ve under-estimated teams before and that’s why they’ve not been to a final since 1998 despite having Ovechkin. Babcock has a good handle on what works at this time of year and will give old pal Barry Trotz a good run. Capitals in six.

Braden Holtby, Capitals won’t look back (
Moving on is essential for a goaltender, particularly after giving up a goal. As Holtby said, “The goal is shut it out as quickly as you can.” That process began shortly after Holtby picked himself up off the ice following the Capitals’ elimination in Pittsburgh in May. Holtby had a long summer ahead of him and easily could have spent it pondering what he could have done differently on Bonino’s series-winning goal. But he didn’t.

John Carlson skates on extra pairing during Caps’ first playoff practice (RMNB)
“It’s nothing serious at all,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said of Carlson’s injury last week. “Where we are right now, we just felt, let’s not put anything at risk and let everybody heal.” On Sunday, Trotz added that he was “very confident” Carlson would be ready for Game One of the Capitals’ first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marlies sign draft pick Jesper Lindgren to an ATO (Pension Plan Puppets)
Lindgren a 2015 fourth round pick of the Leafs has just finished his season in Sweden on a high note. After putting in a very good personal performance on his struggling MODO team, he helped their J20 team win a championship. Lindgren is a right-shooting defender, is listed at 6’ and 161 lbs and has played top pair most of the year. He was just not quite good enough to make the Swedish WJC team, but he is not far from that level.

Practice Lines

No Tyler Bozak, Nikita Zaitsev, or Roman Polak at Tuesday’s practice.