The upstart Toronto Maple Leafs take on the President’s Trophy champs Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their first round playoff series on Thursday night. Washington is in the same place they were a year ago as the best team in the NHL, but failed to advance past the second round. Superstar Alex Ovechkin (team co-leading 33 goals) is playing at a high level right now as he recorded 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his last 15 games as Washington posted an 11-3-1 mark to secure its third Presidents’ Trophy in eight years. Center Nicklas Backstrom (NHL second-best 63 assists, team-leading 86 points) scored a goal and set up two others in three meetings with Toronto this season. For as good as the offense is, Washington’s defense has been very underrated all season and has allowed the league’s fewest goals (177) and fourth-fewest shots (2,282). Trade deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk has fit in nicely with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov in front of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. Washington won two of the three games against Toronto this season and is 10-2-1 in the last 13 meetings.
19-year-old Auston Matthews, who became the first NHL rookie to score 40 goals in a season since Ovechkin in 2005-06, leads a young Maple Leafs team making just their third postseason appearance since 2003-04. The Leafs ended the season strong, posting a 12-5-1 mark to qualify for the playoffs. Matthews had plenty of help for the NHL’s fifth-ranked offense as William Nylander (22 goals, 39 assists) and Mitch Marner (19 goals, 42 assists) finished tied for third in points among rookies with 61. Veteran goaltender Frederik Andersen is expected to return to the crease for the playoff opener after being scratched from the regular-season finale following a bump in the head by Pittsburgh’s Tom Sestito. Tyler Bozak and defenseman Roman Polak (lower body) returned to practice on Wednesday but rookie blue-liner Nikita Zaitsev (upper body) was ruled out of the series opener, leading to Martin Marincin (7 points in 25 games) likely being inserted into the lineup. The Maple Leafs have the second-best power play in the league, converting on 23.8% of their chances.
Not much is expected of this Toronto team this season and that should put more of the pressure on Washington in this series. I say the Capitals win in 5-6 games, but the Leafs have a chance to steal Game 1. The veteran Andersen in net will help. I’ll take a shot here.
Pick:Maple Leafs +195
Maple Leafs are 5-1 in their last 6 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Maple Leafs are 4-1 in their last 5 Thursday games.
Maple Leafs are 5-2 in their last 7 vs. Metropolitan.
Maple Leafs are 11-5 in their last 16 vs. Eastern Conference.
Maple Leafs are 42-88 in their last 130 road games.
Maple Leafs are 8-17 in their last 25 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
Maple Leafs are 31-71 in their last 102 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Maple Leafs are 16-37 in their last 53 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
Maple Leafs are 28-66 in their last 94 vs. a team with a winning record.
Capitals are 49-13 in their last 62 vs. Atlantic.
Capitals are 59-19 in their last 78 home games.
Capitals are 40-14 in their last 54 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
Capitals are 5-2 in their last 7 Conference Quarterfinals games.
Capitals are 42-17 in their last 59 overall.
Capitals are 70-29 in their last 99 vs. a team with a losing record.
Capitals are 36-15 in their last 51 after allowing 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Capitals are 52-23 in their last 75 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Capitals are 61-27 in their last 88 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Capitals are 45-20 in their last 65 Thursday games.
Capitals are 36-17 in their last 53 vs. Eastern Conference.
Capitals are 0-7 in their last 7 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
Under is 4-1 in Maple Leafs last 5 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
Over is 4-1 in Maple Leafs last 5 road games.
Under is 7-2-1 in Maple Leafs last 10 Thursday games.
Under is 6-2 in Maple Leafs last 8 when their opponent allows 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Under is 6-2-1 in Maple Leafs last 9 vs. a team with a winning record.
Under is 20-7 in Maple Leafs last 27 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Under is 18-7-1 in Maple Leafs last 26 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Over is 5-2-1 in Maple Leafs last 8 Conference Quarterfinals games.
Under is 28-13 in Maple Leafs last 41 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
Under is 4-0-1 in Capitals last 5 overall.
Under is 4-0 in Capitals last 4 after allowing 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Under is 4-0 in Capitals last 4 home games.
Under is 6-1-1 in Capitals last 8 Conference Quarterfinals games.
Under is 5-1 in Capitals last 6 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
Under is 10-2-4 in Capitals last 16 vs. Eastern Conference.
Under is 4-1-2 in Capitals last 7 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
Under is 4-1 in Capitals last 5 vs. Atlantic.
Over is 3-1-1 in Capitals last 5 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
Over is 6-2 in Capitals last 8 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
HEAD TO HEAD
Home team is 20-8 in the last 28 meetings.
Maple Leafs are 5-17 in the last 22 meetings in Washington.
Maple Leafs are 1-7 in the last 8 meetings.
Trends courtesy of SportsOptions.com – an UltimateCapper.com partner