Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs

Florida is revitalized by a hot goalie. Carolina is in chaos after a questionable coaching change. Atlanta is....Atlanta, and Tampa Bay is rebuilding.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, it's the Capitals' division to lose. With a five-point lead over Carolina and a date between the two set for Sunday, the Capitals have a chance to take a commanding nine-point lead. That is, if they can get over the hurdle of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs are in a bit of a rebuilding stage themselves, but as many teams learned during the Caps reconstruction, rebuilding teams are dangerous teams.

Can the Capitals keep their focus? What freak incident will put a goal in off a player's/ref's skate this game? What will Don Cherry say during Coach's Corner and what color dress suit will he wear?

Time for your pre-Cap!

Washington Capitals (14-9-3, last game 5-2 win over New York Islanders)
Toronto Maple Leafs (9-11-6, last game 6-3 loss to Phoenix)

The story so far...
The Capitals power play dominated the Islanders and, if the Capitals want to find success in their future, a good starting point is the power play. The Capitals will need a few goals from the third and fourth lines, but with Ovechkin, Kozlov, Backstrom and Flash as hot as they are any goal is a good goal.

Key Players
WSH: Matt Bradley
If Brash can get a game -nning goal, well so can Bradley. Boudreau wants to see more production from the third and fourth lines, and that's where Bradley comes in. Currently riding 99 career points, his next is a milestone that any young player would love to achieve. On top of that, the Capitals are facing a tired Maple Leafs team that has just finished a road trip, and rough guys like Brads are perfect for a trash goal in that situation.
TOR: Vesa Toskala
He's 2-2 against the Caps with a 3.12 GAA. He's also missing a top blue liner, Mike Van Ryn. Toskala has been called upon to be the top netminder for the Maple Leafs and his play can set the tone for the night, although Toskala is riding a skid he'd like to end. In his last two starts, he's given up five and six goals respectively.

Home ice advantage?
Washington can't muster big wins on the road but, in Toronto's case, the Air Canada Centre hasn't been a friendly environment either. At 4-4-4, the Leafs aren't the most dominating team at home.

Containing the Great Eight
Alex Ovechkin has had a productive career so far against the Maple Leafs. In 12 games, he has 11 goals and five assists. In six games at the Air Canada Centre, he has seven goals and one assist.

Worst. Goal. Ever.
At least Vesa Toskala might think so. Islanders fans on the other hand...

I remember that guy
The Capitals will be facing former coach Ron Wilson. Wilson was the coach of the '98 Capitals who were ousted from the Stanley Cup finals by Sergei Fedorov and the Red Wings in four games.

Tired, weary, angry
The Maple Leafs are coming off a road trip that was less than forgiving. The Leafs were squashed by the league dominating leading San Jose Sharks 5-2, and then were handed another loss by the Coyotes, 6-3. The Leafs did manage a 3-1 win over the Kings, but three games in four days, with one against the Sharks...Yeah we know how that feels.

I tried not to mention Brian Burke
The big news in the NHL (other than anything pertaining to sloppy seconds) was the hiring of Brian Burke, former Anaheim GM, by the Maple Leafs. Burke won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in his second year as GM in Anaheim.

Who doesn't love a parody song?
Leafs Suck, sung to the tune of Andre 3000's Hey Ya!

I hate Maple Leafs!
Funny commercial from Nike hockey concerning the Leafs.


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