Capitals open home slate against Leafs
Saturday, 10.03.2009 / 7:00 PM
MAPLE LEAFS (0-0-1) at Capitals (1-0-0)
Season series -- Washington and Toronto split their season series in 2008-09 at two games each, but the Leafs took the last meeting, a 3-2 shootout victory on March 24, 2009.
Big Story -- Coming off a big win in Boston, the Capitals will look to ride the resulting momentum to a hot start to the season as they open their home slate against the visiting Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs: With a remodeled roster in tow, Toronto opened its season Thursday with a frustrating overtime defeat to the Montreal Canadiens. While the Leafs have the appearance of a group of physical bruisers, the offense managed to outshoot Montreal by a stunning 46-27 margin. Despite not yet having sniper Phil Kessel on the ice for at least six more weeks, Toronto's lightly-regarded offense still found ways to regularly put the puck on net, with Habs netminder Carey Price being the only thing that kept the night's outcome from being dramatically different. If the Leafs can continue to apply this type of pressure in the offensive zone, the chances may yet turn into more goals, but in the home of the defending Southeast Division champs the test will be stiffer this time around.
Capitals: With two division championships in their rearview mirror and sky high expectations, the Caps were equal to the task in their season opener Thursday. Washington busted out of the gate with a dominating 4-1 win over a Bruins team that amassed 116 points a season ago, its first victory in Boston in nearly nine years. Despite the accomplishments of the past two seasons, two-time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin has made it abundantly clear the Capitals have their sights on a bigger prize this campaign. Ovechkin's two goals in the opener were a clear sign that he plans on leading Washington's potent offense, as the Caps look to build on the season opener and establish themselves as the dominant team in the East.
Who's Hot -- While Ovechkin's two goals on opening night were the ones to grab headlines, it was Brooks Laich whose second-period power-play goal salted the game away. The tally was Laich's second of the night, reinforcing that Washington is hardly a one-man show. Toronto's opener didn't come without a multi-goal scorer of its own, as center Matt Stajan lit the lamp twice in the losing effort.
Injury Report -- With Kessel still on the sideline, Toronto will need to once again bombard the opposing net with shots to fill the void left by his absence. Washington's regular lineup should be intact after a worry-free opening night.
Stat Pack -- 5 - The number of times new marquee defenseman Mike Komisarek went to the sin bin for Toronto. The ensuing Montreal power play from his final minor penalty resulted in a game-tying score late in the third period. For the Leafs to turn their fortunes around, they will need to exhibit far more discipline.
Puck Drop -- With 80 games left to play after Saturday night, it's clearly too early to consider any game a "must-win", but the Leafs can make a big early-season statement if they leave the U.S. Capital with two points. However, with the Caps' emotions running high as they raise another division championship banner, making that statement will be a tall order.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com