The Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the Washington Capitals to Scotiabank Arena, as they seek a bounce-back spot after getting pushed around in Montreal. The Leafs didn’t deserve to win that game and they didn’t come close. Montreal emerged with a 5-2 win against Michael Hutchinson and the Leafs. Hutchinson struggled again between the pipes.
The team as a whole could have played better, but the Leafs have a real problem when Frederik Andersen needs a breather. I think the main issue is their defense, though. Andersen is still under a lot of pressure and has to pull a rabbit out of the hat most nights. With a goaltender like Hutchinson, their defensive struggles get exposed that much more. That said, not even Andersen is going to have success in the playoffs without help.
If he continually sees 40 shots a night, the percentages are going to work against him and the Leafs. They did attempt to fix their blue line in the offseason with the acquisition of Tyson Barrie from the Avalanche. It hasn’t work for the Leafs, at least not yet. Barrie has been in a point slump, and not only that, he hasn’t been that effective defensively. Trading Nazem Kadri for defensive help looked like a good move, but was Barrie the right guy? We’ll see if he can shake this abysmal start with the Leafs and develop into a contributor. There’s still ample time that.
The Leafs’ defence is unlikely to have much relief tonight. On the heels of a poor showing against the Canadiens, they have to chase around Alexander Ovechkin and company. Despite their core getting older, the Capitals are still a dangerous threat offensively. Ovechkin is still moving around like he’s 30, and the support cast is still here from the Stanley Cup Championship team. The Caps are 8-2-3 heading into Toronto to take on the 6-5-1 Maple Leafs. Head below for our free Capitals vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Maple Leafs have been moving in waves this season. It’s been a little of this and a little of that, without much consistency or rhythm. One night they look like a contender and the next a pile of mush. We haven’t seen a Stanley Cup contender, just a team that is ready to get bounced by the Boston Bruins in the first-round of the playoffs again. The pressure is on Mike Babcock to have success and an early exit in the playoffs will likely seal his fate in Toronto.
There are rumours swirling that his job is in jeopardy right this moment. Unless things go haywire and nobody is responding in the locker room, Babcock likely gets a full season test. Somehow he will have to fix something that has been broken in Toronto for a long time. At 25th in the NHL, the Leafs have allowed an average of 3.38 goals per game. That’s not the worst, though it isn’t a recipe for success, either. The Capitals have been on fire offensively recently, which should give the Leafs some issues in their own zone.
Washington have scored at least 5 goals in four of their previous five games. They’re coming off a wild 6-5 win, which saw the Capitals score 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd period to bury the Canucks in a shootout. You can never count the Capitals out with their offence. They’re 3rd in the league 3.77 goals scored per game. The road hasn’t been a problem for their playmakers either, as they’ve notched 4 goals a game on the road. Andersen has been slightly below average against the Capitals, with a 2.82 GAA in eight games.
The Caps have scored at least 3 goals against the Leafs in their last three meetings and in five of their last six. Babcock’s team have been scoring at home, with 3.75 goals per game, but allowing over 3 goals a game on average is not going to work over the course of a full year. There is a reason the Caps are 9-1 to the OVER, though. Their defence has been inadequate and they’ve allowed 3.31 goals per game. This looks like it’s going to be a 3-3 game late at Scotiabank Arena.
Tough beat with the Sabres last night, as the Coyotes scored a couple of fluky goals to erase a 2-goal deficit, and then won in a shootout after the Sabres hit two posts in overtime. In any event, the ROI of my NHL picks still clocks in at 4.48% going into tonight. Overall, across all sports, my picks are hitting at 54.6% in October. Hopefully we can bump it up a bit more with a winning pick on the OVER in Toronto.