Monday, April 10, 2017
NHL playoff preview: Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Caps have never won the Cup in franchise history. Face of the franchise Alex Ovechkin has scored 50 or more goals in a regular season 7 times, but never has played in the Eastern conference finals. When you look at their roster, it's hard to believe. Ovechkin is on the best line in the NHL (in my opinion), with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie aiding him. Their second line of Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams is good. Star d-man John Carlson should return from injury, and Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner are solid as well. The Caps made a big trade deadline move, acquiring star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues. Vezina winner Braden Holtby is very good. Their lineup is stacked, and this might finally be their year.
Toronto Maple Leafs
They might be in the playoffs, but the Leafs are still in a rebuild. They are led by the most recent first overall pick in Auston Matthews, who netted 40 goals in his rookie season. His sidekicks, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, are also rookies. Zach Hyman is also a very good player who plays with Matthews. James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri aren't rookies, but are still pretty good. Gritty forwards Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Brian Boyle and Matt Martin are good to have. On D, they get weaker. Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are 1 and 2, with rookie Nikita Zaitsev number 3. Their pairing of veterans Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak needs to lead them. Frederik Andersen will return from injury, and lead the way.
My prediction: Washington Capitals
I think the Capitals are stronger. They are more experienced. I think their X-factor is Justin Williams. Williams is the only player on either team to have won the Stanley Cup. Williams has actually won three. He won in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and in 2012 and 2014 with the L.A. Kings. In 2014, he won the Conn Smythe trophy. Ovechkin's line will be too much to handle for the Leafs defense. Holtby and the defensive core can shutout the rookies.