The 2017 playoffs are about to be underway with many interesting match-ups happening. After the Maple Leafs failed to win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, they were set to face the first-seeded Washington Capitals. The Capitals are coming off another great season- winning the Presidents Trophy, and looking to make it past the dreaded second round. The Maple Leafs and Capitals each have great players and factors that can sway momentum in their favor throughout the series.
First off, the Capitals have Braden Holtby at the back end. The goalie is coming off a fantastic season, following up last season’s number, with a record of 42-13-6 and a 2.07 GAA. Holtby has made himself a great candidate for the Vezina Trophy, but that isn’t his first goal this year. He wants to take his team farther then they have been in the past couple of years and hold the Stanley Cup above his head.
The Capitals also have a pair of forwards that can make a huge difference in the post season. Alex Ovechkin is coming off another hot year, posting 69 points this season. He has had great post-season numbers including 41 goals and 41 assists. The other forward is Nicklas Backstrom. Also coming off a great season, he looks to improve his playoff numbers and go further into the race for the Cup. Possessing 20 goals and 42 assists, he could be a key player setting up plays and helping the team to the next round.
But the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to stop the Capitals and create a huge upset in the first round. The Maple Leafs have a handful of rookies that are making their first post-season bid and looking to have it continue on for as long as it can.
Auston Matthews proved he was going to be a key player for the Leafs since the beginning of the season after scoring 4 goals in his first game. He has been a favorite to win the Calder Trophy ever since his NHL debut. Matthews posted a rookie high in points for the Leafs in their 100-year history (69) and he only looks to increase the numbers and goals in a playoff run.
The other pair of rookies that can be deadly to the Capitals are Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Marner has been a break-out rookie for the Leafs, posting 19 goals and 42 assists, while Nylander has posted an equally impressive 22 goals and 39 assists. Both have been very productive this season and can be great breakout stars in the post-season.
Keys to Capitals victory:
Capitals will need to focus on the basics and shut down the youthful power of the Leafs. The Capitals will have to take it one game at a time and now look down the road towards the end. The Leafs will come out with their young guns and try to shut out their top forwards, meaning the Capitals will need to shut down the rookies and keep them from gaining momentum in the series.
Keys to Maple Leafs victory:
Rookies need to produce. Having only a handful of players with playoff experience can be a negative, but those veterans need to lead the way for the rookies. The team must have fun and carry the excitement from the regular season into the post-season. The team can become huge underdogs of this post-season if they keep their mind straight and produce against the Capitals.