The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their hot start as they come away with a 4-2 victory in DC on Saturday night. While the game was not as high scoring as some had expected there were many scoring chances as the teams traded opportunities and Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen was the difference turning away 25 of 27 shots. Coming into the game with a .829 SV% Andersen certainly had his best game to date. Braden Holtby could not be faulted on the goals against as he also made some strong saves while turning away 24 of 28 shots.
Evgeny Kuznetsov continued his strong play with a goal and an assist giving him 9 points and 4 goals on the year. The shot by Kuzy on the power play after receiving a Backstrom pass behind the net was a thing of highlight beauty. From down near the right goal line 92 toe dragged inside the low defensemans stick and ripped the puck top shelf over Andersen’s shoulder. The one area of concern for me with Kuzy is in the face-off circle. He was dominated again last night and this time by Matthews as he only bettered the young superstar in 1 of 12 face-offs. Winning only 4 of 14 draws over the game is not a good number for your number one center. Coming into the game he was sitting at 38% so he needs to improve in this area. Especially on the penalty kill. Nicklas Backstrom is sitting at a more respectable 50% as he has always been good on the draw against the best centers in the league.
The Capitals started out quickly with Chandler Stephenson scoring 18 seconds in. The fast moving forward had been promoted to the first line and took advantage early as he banged home a Kuznetsov rebound. With Tom Wilson out (and appealing his suspension) expect to see a rotation of players in this spot.
Both teams have deadly power plays and finished 1 for 3 for 33%. In the end Toronto took advantage of a Caps penalty that ultimately won the game. Early in the third, Caps Michal Kempny took a high-sticking penalty and the Leafs capitalized when Josh Leivo was just able to beat a sprawling Holtby to give the Leafs the lead they never surrendered. Washington seems to give up many first NHL goals and tonight it happened again as Par Lindholm scored his career first for Toronto. Auston Matthews continued his hot streak closing out the game with his 10th of the season late in the game. Morgan Rielly also assisted on that goal to add to his unbelievable pace as he sits at 13 points after 6 games.
Christian Djoos looked off as he seemed to be in panic mode a lot. Bad decision making including a spinarama attempt at the offensive blueline that was turned over led to a minus 2 on the night. A good skater and puck mover he needs to find his game from last spring. Madison Bowey may get back into the lineup sooner than later.
Next up for the Capitals are the New York Rangers who have struggled so far this year but as Caps fans know, there is never a quiet game vs the blue shirts. Game time is Wednesday, October 17 at 7PM EST.