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Photo Credit: © Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #14: 5 Things to Watch against the Capitals

Not a heck of a lot of Leafs hockey this week. We’ll have to enjoy what we get, and tonight we get the return of Travis Dermott, which is good. Unfortunately the Leafs get the very good Washington Capitals team, which is bad. It would be nice to see the Leafs rise to the occasion tonight. It would also be nice if Tom Wilson doesn’t explode anyone tonight because…

  1. It would be nice to have this team completely healthy soon
  2. It would be nice for the team toughness debates to die down

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.6#48 LW

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Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 80.1#8 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 73.6#42 RW

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FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.78#16 FL1
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 74.6#31 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

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Rating: 72.9#86 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.4#12 RW

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FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.29#7 FL2
Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 71.2#111 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.7#144 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.5#43 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.80#18 FL3
Dmytro Timashov
DMYTRO TIMASHOV

Rating: 73.5#50 LW

Nick Shore
NICK SHORE

Rating: 70.8#138 C

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.0#107 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.11#14 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 76.7#8 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.7#78 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 74.21#21 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 75.5#17 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.9#15 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 75.73#2 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 74.5#33 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 73.6#42 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 74.02#5 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Alex Ovechkin
ALEX OVECHKIN

Rating: 81.2#3 LW

Nicklas Backstrom
NICKLAS BACKSTROM

Rating: 76.5#28 C

T.J. Oshie
T.J. OSHIE

Rating: 76.5#11 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.06#4 FL1
Jakub Vrana
JAKUB VRANA

Rating: 73.7#58 LW

Evgeny Kuznetsov
EVGENY KUZNETSOV

Rating: 75.4#38 C

Tom Wilson
TOM WILSON

Rating: 74.2#31 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 74.42#9 FL2
Carl Hagelin
CARL HAGELIN

Rating: 71.5#103 LW

Lars Eller
LARS ELLER

Rating: 73.1#78 C

Garnet Hathaway
GARNET HATHAWAY

Rating: 71.2#80 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.94#15 FL3
Brendan Leipsic
BRENDAN LEIPSIC

Rating: 69.9#134 LW

Nic Dowd
NIC DOWD

Rating: 70.8#139 C

Travis Boyd
TRAVIS BOYD

Rating: 69.5#105 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.04#27 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Michal Kempny
MICHAL KEMPNY

Rating: 73.5#54 LD

John Carlson
JOHN CARLSON

Rating: 79.7#1 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.62#7 DL1
Dmitri Orlov
DMITRI ORLOV

Rating: 73.4#60 LD

Radko Gudas
RADKO GUDAS

Rating: 71.5#91 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 72.42#25 DL2
Jonas Siegenthaler
JONAS SIEGENTHALER

Rating: 72.4#86 LD

Nick Jensen
NICK JENSEN

Rating: 71.5#89 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 71.94#21 DL3

Gudas and Wilson. I don’t like the Leafs chances of getting out of this one safely.

Here are 5 things to watch for…

1. Dermott is back

If nothing else we have this. He will be gently eased back into playing on the third pairing. If all goes well there we can hope that someday we’ll get to see him in a larger role. What that role will be, who knows, be we can certainly hope it involves seeing less of Cody Ceci on the ice.

Dermott’s been no stranger to the third pairing role, and has consistently had positive results for shot differential and expected goals over the past two seasons facing the competition that a third pairing often faces. He’s often been played with more “defensively” minded partners like Ozhiganov and Polak, so it will be interesting to see how he does with Holl, who did work with on the Marlies.

2. Team Toughness

Hoooooooo doggy, this is a loaded one and one that will probably warrant it’s one post sometime soon.

For now let’s look at the fact that the Leafs are playing a team with Tom Wilson and Radko Gudas. The Capitals also have T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin who are prone to dirty plays. Finally throw Garnett Hathaway and Brandon Leipsic into the mix and it looks like the Leafs are going to be sore and need until Saturday to fully recover.

The Capitals are tough, but they are also good. I think that’s what a lot of people want for the Leafs who have proven to be one of the most skilled teams in the league, but don’t exactly leave the opposition feeling sore.

Of course, that’s not entirely true as Jake Muzzin is a very physical player and capable checker. Trevor Moore is in the same class of physicality as Leipsic, and likely a couple of notches above him on skill. The return of Hyman will give the Leafs another forechecker and Kapanen, Mikheyev, and Ceci all hit to some degree.

The two issues that have popped up lately seem to be the Leafs don’t have agitators or anyone who can for a lack of better words, stick up for their teammates.

Rather than search the vast landscape of the NHL, it would be nice to see some of these traits instilled in their current lineup, it’s cheaper and doesn’t involve sacrificing skill. I also want to state that I am not specifically advocating for the Leafs having a “fighter”, just someone who will get in the face of the opposition when something questionable happens.

Like I said, this deserves a bit more thought, but the Leafs are in tough against the Capitals.

3. Tyson Barrie wants more power play time

Frankly I think the Leafs should give it to him. Morgan Rielly is already doing a lot of heavy lifting 5v5, and if they can potentially get more out of Rielly while handing some of the powerplay workload to Barrie without losing much, I say go for it.

That being said, I can’t think of a single hockey player ever who wants to give up their powerplay time, so I have to imagine Rielly is going to stick with the top unit until he gives them a reason to not keep him on the ice.

As for Barrie, I wouldn’t mind him seeing take a few shifts with Dermott over the course of the next few games, just to see if they can be a good situational pairing when the Leafs need more offence.

4. We can stop saying that goaltending is the problem

Remember how Freddie Andersen is a good goaltender? Remember how he had a slow start? Well we can probably say that’s behind him.

Date Opp RESULT GA SV SV%
10/25/19 SJS W 1 16 0.941
10/21/19 CBJ O 4 34 0.895
10/19/19 BOS W 3 43 0.935
10/15/19 MIN W 2 27 0.931
10/12/19 DET W 2 25 0.926

Your goaltender beefs reside solely on the shoulders of Michael Hutchinson and his appearance in the second half of back to backs. There is no question that Andersen didn’t have an ideal start, but it looks like we can start relying on him a bit more, although it would be nice to see if the Leafs can keep the shot totals down.

5. Getting over the Gauthier hype

Freddie Gauthier was a fun little story at the start of the season. He quickly picked up two goals, and largely due to the success of Dmytro Timashov, he started looking like he was in fact a solid 4th line center. Since that early fun we haven’t seen a lot from Gauthier, and bizarrely, he’s been given opportunities to play up in the lineup that again remind us how truly in over his head he is in this league.

With the return of Hyman looming, it appears that Gauthier will be safe from any consideration of demotion, although that doesn’t seem like it should be the case, but it will be interesting to see if Gauthier can settle back down into any kind of success. For now it seems like Mike Babcock has found his Luke Glendening.

Game starts at 7 PM ET and can be found on TSN 4 in Ontario.