Toronto is making their second playoff appearance in 13 seasons. Unfortunately, by losing the final game of the regular season, they face the Washington Capitals as opposed to their arch rival Ottawa Senators. Washington has won their second straight President’s Trophy, and their third in seven seasons.
The driving force for the Leafs this season was the play of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Matthews broke the Leafs rookie goal record, notching 40 goals in the season. Nylander and Marner both have 61 points, with Marner racking up 19 goals and 42 assists and Nylander scoring 22 goals alongside 39 assists. For the Caps, it is the same story. Ovechkin and Backstrom leading a very deep roster and Brayden Holtby protecting the net. It will be forgotten, however, if they again are done by the second round. They haven’t seen the Conference Finals since 1998 on their way to their Finals loss to Detroit.
Washington has almost a whole goal advantage statistically in this matchup. The Leafs allow the 4th most shots against at 32.6 a game, and with Washington’s 10.55 average shooting percentage, Andersen would have to play out of this world. Washington, meanwhile, allows the second fewest shots on goal, and the Maple Leafs offense won’t be able to score as much. Hotly will be too strong for them, even if the Leafs continued their 31.9 shots per game.
I have Washington winning in 5. They are too strong for this young Toronto team. It doesn’t help that Toronto has had a knack for blowing leads. There is pressure on Washington, though. They need to sweep or win in 5. If they let it go to game 6, or even to 7, with Columbus or Pittsburgh looming, it will be very tough passing the second round.