Maple Leafs announced Wednesday that defenceman Nikita Zaitsev won't be part of the lineup for the game1 of the post-season series against the Washington Capitals. The Toronto Maple Leafs will play their first playoff game in nearly four years Thursday night in Washington. But holding that lead in a hostile venue is quite another step. "So we're not going away".
If you go simply by regular-season points, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and the wild-card Toronto Maple Leafs is the biggest mismatch of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Wilson, who grew up in Toronto, was a childhood Leafs fan. He is sitting out Game 1 after a hit into the boards in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. "He's a real valuable player for us, knows how to play, he has quietly been a plus player - around seven or eight I think he is - he's got about 20 points, kills penalties for us, knows how to play". "We didn't want us watching them (in awe)". He said "there's always some nervousness when you come into a game like this".
"A confidence-builder, for sure", he said. The Wings' former head coach who fled Detroit for a division rival is back in the playoffs while we sit at home, that can't be sitting well with a lot of people around here. "We had so many opportunities to shoot and ended passing instead of shooting on the net". "It's playoff hockey for you". Halfway through the period, the Caps did not have many good scoring chances while Toronto was very close to regaining their two goal advantage. Oshie quickly fed Williams at the back door, and the veteran winger tapped it home.
Then Babcock rolled him out into 22.5 minutes, on his off side, on a last-place team, and well - let's just say he didn't succeed. "We have to come back (Game 2 is here Saturday) and play the same way and better".
Defensive depth is a weakness for the Leafs and they've got at least one tired defensive line - Tyler Bozak, Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk - that can be exposed, especially on the road. "There was just a one-shot difference".
Mitch Marner took just 1:35 to be the first of nine Leafs in their first playoff game overall to make it count.
Exactly the seed of doubt the Leafs hope to plant in the minds of the underachieving springtime squad. "I kept trying to tell them - we've got good players, we're allowed to play at a high level". (But) we didn't have any panic. "The last 30 minutes I thought was a little better".
The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Toronto's second goal, an unassisted tally by Gardiner from the slot at 9:44, was initially waved off due to goaltender's interference on Nazem Kadri.
Justin Williams, a three-time Cup victor and annual playoff hero, scored the first of his two just as a five-on-three advantage expired. They beat the Leafs at Verizon for the eighth straight time, but Toronto did blank Ovechkin's line and rattled Holtby, who came in with a sparkling.937 playoff save percentage in 46 career games.
So it's easy to understand why the Caps faithful feel more anxiety than excitement entering the first-round matchup against Toronto.
After the game, Babcock's dismissive comments resurfaced. Aside from playing for the Oilers, he is now a team partner and vice chairman. "It's important for your players, who get to watch how hard everyone plays, and how little room there is, how the game works".
While the Leafs haven't won the Cup since 1967, the Capitals haven't won Lord Stanley since the team's inception in 1974. The Capitals are supposed to win the Stanley Cup, but they have to actually do it. The Caps moved ahead on the shot clock with Frederik Andersen snaring a Marcus Johansson tip with under four minute to play. "He's going to coach the same way, I'm going to play the same way".
For all things Leafs-Capitals, the Toronto Sun has you covered.
"There was a few players (he admired), but a guy like Darcy Tucker was a fan favourite".
Nicklas Backstrom has been in the playoffs enough times to know the importance of starting fast.