LGD: Quality of Competition

Ryan Fancey
January 03 2017 11:18AM

Morgan Rielly, when asked if he talks about the playoffs given where the Leafs are right now (via NHL.com):

In meetings, no. Amongst each other at dinner, absolutely. I think if you don't come to the rink with the attitude that you're going to be playing in the playoffs, you're already behind. When we go for dinner, we definitely talk about it. I check the standings every day. We definitely talk about it. I certainly do.

I also like to check the standings every once in a while, and this morning they're telling me that, on the heels of another Bruins loss, the Leafs now sit three points back of third in the Atlantic with four games in hand (though it's really Ottawa that's more likely the sitting duck). They head into Washington tonight to go up against one of the best, and stingiest teams in the league. 

The Caps have given up the fewest goals against in the conference, and rank fourth overall in Corsi Against per 60 minutes. To go on the road and get these two points is going to be difficult, but it's a good measuring stick for this Leafs team that has recently been doing a nice job of taking care of teams they should beat. Now they need to get another win against a team they shouldn't.

THE LEAFS

LW C RW
Leo Komarov 
Leo Komarov
Nazem Kadri 
Nazem Kadri
William Nylander 
William Nylander
Zach Hyman 
Zach Hyman
Auston Matthews 
Auston Matthews
Connor Brown 
Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk 
James van Riemsdyk
Tyler Bozak 
Tyler Bozak
Mitchell Marner 
Mitchell Marner
Matt Martin 
Matt Martin
Frederik Gauthier 
Frederik Gauthier
Nikita Soshnikov 
Nikita Soshnikov
Defensive Pairings
Morgan Rielly 
Morgan Rielly
Nikita Zaitsev 
Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner 
Jake Gardiner
Connor Carrick 
Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick 
Matt Hunwick
Roman Polak 
Roman Polak

Nothing new here, Babcock is just going with what's been working. Something to note, aside from Matthews' dominance, is Connor Brown's seven points over this five game winning streak. It'll be interesting to see how long he sticks on that line. Obviously nothing but good things so far.

THE CAPS

LW C RW
Alex Ovechkin 
Alex Ovechkin
Nicklas Backstrom 
Nicklas Backstrom
T.J. Oshie 
T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson 
Marcus Johansson
Evgeny Kuznetsov 
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Justin Williams 
Justin Williams
Brett Connolly 
Brett Connolly
Lars Eller 
Lars Eller
Andre Burakovsky 
Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik 
Daniel Winnik
Jay Beagle 
Jay Beagle
Tom Wilson 
Tom Wilson
Defensive Pairings
Karl Alzner 
Karl Alzner
John Carlson 
John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov 
Dmitri Orlov
Matt Niskanen 
Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik 
Brooks Orpik
Taylor Chorney 
Taylor Chorney

Like I mentioned at the top, the Caps are sound defensively and are among the best teams in the league, even if they're not quite there in the standings yet with the leaders of their division. They've only given up 78 goals-against so far this season, with just the Dubnyk-led Wild surrendering fewer (76). The high-scoring Leafs did put up four on them the last time these two teams played, but it was against a tired Caps team visiting Toronto. We should expect things to be tighter this go round.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

Holtby (0.929 save-percentage) has been confirmed to go for the Caps by our friends at Daily Faceoff. Toronto hasn't confirmed their starter yet, but it's reasonable to assume Andersen (0.924) gets the net.

NUMBERS


TOR WSH
Wins 17 22
Points Per Game 1.14 1.36
Power Play 19.6% (12th)   16.7% (18th) 
Penalty Kill 85.2% (6th) 87.3% (3rd)
Score-Adjusted Corsi     51.9% (11th) 53.4% (4th)

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

mtws

Game goes 7:00pm EST, Leafs regional coverage on TSN4. 

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Email ryanfancey at gmail dot com.