The Maple Leafs are looking to keep a sleeping giant snoozing when they visit the goalless Alex Ovechkin and the 1-2-1 Washington Capitals, who have scored just five goals in their opening four games (6:00 p.m. EST, TSN4).
Game Day Quotes
Spencer Carbery on the Capitals’ 1-2-1 start in which they’ve scored just five total goals:
As much as we’ve focused on our group offensively because we are not scoring right now, that is probably the much better part of our game: what we’re doing offensively and what are generating offensively. It is weird to say that because we are not scoring. We are extremely offensively deficient when it becomes the actual end goal, but the process parts are really good.
On the flip side, defensively, we need to tighten up a lot. We can be a lot better. Puck management is a huge part of that. There are some details inside our structure that are missing on a lot of individual things, whether it is a one-on-one battle or it is getting beat off the rush as we saw in Montreal. A couple of times, we turned a 2-on-2 into a full breakaway where they beat us wide and it ended up in our net, or our tracker was beaten up ice.
We need to do a way better job of the little details defensively, and also with the puck management.
Sheldon Keefe on the challenge presented by the Capitals:
They are making a lot of plays. Their defense is very involved in the offense. Often, you see four guys below the circles and below the dots, attacking the net that way.
They have good depth. It is pretty spread out across the lineup in terms of their forward depth and the experience that they have. It is a good mix of experience and some young players who are coming in and giving them a lot of push offensively, too.
They have been very good in transition to start the season while they are trying to find their game. Similar to us, in a lot of ways, they have been one of the top teams in the league offensively in terms of generating chances, but defensively, they have given up a bunch. We have been similar in that area.
It is going to be a test of two teams looking to plug one hole and be good in the other.
Keefe on starting Tyler Bertuzzi with John Tavares and William Nylander:
[Tavares and Nylander] have found a way to produce offensively for us. It is more wanting to get a look with Jarnkrok back with Matthews and Marner. In the last two games, I have started with Bert with Auston and then stepped away from it.
I think we will step away from that again to start with also to keep Knies and Domi together. That is sort of how it worked out. We have been through this over the years. With the calibre of the players we have at the top of our lineup, anybody can play with anybody there.
With so many new guys, we will keep tinkering with it until we find something that clicks as we did with Knies and Domi the other day. It seemed like that worked well and those guys enjoyed playing with one another, so you stay with that and sort of tackle the rest of it.
At the same time, the Gregor, Holmberg, and Reaves line was the best our fourth line has been in any of the games we have played. I know we didn’t use them a lot, but I was really happy with that group. You keep that together, and you keep working with the rest.
Keefe on the progress he’s hoping to see from the team tonight:
In South Florida, we played a good game on the defensive side of the puck. We gave up very little. We didn’t generate as much as we would like.
In Tampa, I thought we generated a lot, but we gave up a lot still in transition and off the rush. I would like to see both of those areas come together for us.
This team is going to challenge us similarly to Tampa. They are coming on the rush. Their D are going to be very involved. They have skill throughout the lineup.
We have to keep the focus on us and the things that we do well but also make sure we are tidying up the areas without the puck.
Timothy Liljegren on lining up on the other side against former teammate Rasmus Sandin for the first time:
It will be fun. It’s the first time we’re playing him since he got traded. Excited for the game.
We’re good buddies. We spent a lot of time together. We had lunch the other day. It is good to see him. Excited for tonight.
Noah Gregor on his new centerman Pontus Holmberg:
He is a really smart player. He kind of does everything the right way. He is pretty easy to read off of. He knows where to be out there.
He has some skill, too. I think you kind of saw that last year with his production in the games he played. He was able to put up some points and some numbers.
In our last game, I thought we were pretty strong.
Mark Giordano on the experience of blocking Alex Ovechkin’s shots (or trying to) over the years:
He has a very unpredictable shot. You never know where it is going. Thankfully, I have played the left side my whole career. He is usually shooting it on the other side.
I have been on that side a few times. It is unpredictable where it is going to go. He can put it anywhere. Sometimes, he doesn’t get enough credit. I know he is a shot-volume guy, but he makes some pretty good plays — fake shot, pass to the backdoor type of plays — that you have to be aware of, too.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#19 Calle Jarnkrok – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #64 David Kampf – #11 Max Domi
#18 Noah Gregor – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #75 Ryan Reaves
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#22 Jake McCabe – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 John Klingberg
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov
Scratched: Fraser Minten
Injured: Conor Timmins
Washington Capitals Projected Lines
#8 Alex Ovechkin – #17 Dylan Strome – #45 Matthew Phillips
#24 Connor McMichael – #92 Evgeny Kuznetsov – #77 TJ Oshie
#15 Sonny Milano – #19 Nicklas Backstrom – #43 Tom Wilson
#47 Beck Malenstyn – #59 Aliaksei Protas – #39 Anthony Mantha
#42 Martin Fehervary – #74 John Carlson
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #57 Trevor van Riemsdyk
#27 Alexander Alexeyev – #3 Nick Jensen
Starter: #35 Darcy Kuemper
#33 Clay Stevenson
Injured: Max Pacioretty, Joel Edmundson, Nic Dowd, Charlie Lindgren