Despite the Washington Capitals winning the President's Trophy as the top regular-season team for the second straight season while boasting the always risky duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, fans are nervous. He is sitting out Game 1 after a hit into the boards in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But five minutes after it's over, it has to be: "'What's next?'"
To get a head start, the Leafs closely watched the first set of Stanley Cup playoff games Wednesday night.
Though nine players were making their National Hockey League post-season debuts, the Leafs didn't look like a team lacking in comfort on playoff terrain in the early going. His best save came with 3:29 to play in the third when he robbed Caps winger Marcus Johansson with a glove save for the second time to keep the Leafs alive for overtime. Just sit back and enjoy the playoffs. Over the last 25 years, teams that have won multiple cups, have all been led by players who began their careers on the same team they led to victory. That doesn't happen quickly.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoffs.
Although a few people celebrated the fact that the Leafs had made it as far as overtime.
In particular, he singled out Babcock and assistant GM Mark Hunter for the impact they have had on the worst-to-wild card season of the Leafs.
"In between periods it was basically Justin just kind of calmed everyone down, said, 'Relax, we're not going to win every period, '" Holtby said. We needed more. Development was a huge thing.
You look back over his career, and he's typically been a third-pair guy. Whether or not we're a championship team, we're going to wait and see, but we're going to give it everything we've got. It was an uncharacteristic display of hard-hitting, hard-checking hockey from the Leafs interlaced with their speed and skill. "I think we've surprised a lot of teams this year".
Babcock experimented with different defence combinations for the second consecutive day ahead of Game 1. So much of the responsibility is on him and has been ever since he got here. I'm not gonna deny I saw it. If Washington is allowed a free path to the net, they can negate any success that Toronto has on their power play.
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"I just think we didn't come with any nerves", Marner said. "Mike having kids around their age helps". That's when Toronto-native Tom Wilson rifled a shot into the back of the net from near the right faceoff circle to give the Capitals the Game One win.
"Didn't like that we wouldn't shoot the puck", Babcock said. There was a season of objective, not necessarily pain, ending up with the drafting of the wunderkind Auston Matthews as first pick.
Toronto was 1-2 vs. the Capitals this season. He stunned the league when he scored four goals in his debut against the Ottawa Senators on October 12, 2016. The goals were tied for second in the league (four behind Matthews' idol Sidney Crosby) and the most for a rookie since Washington's Alex Ovechkin had 52 in 2005-06. While no one Leafs-Nation is expecting a cup in 2017, they're clearly hoping for several in the Matthews era.
"I always like playing the Leafs", Wilson said. He was telling you who he was. We're a great team.
Nylander and the other rookies will need to be at their best.
Andersen is the confirmed starter for game one.
And now a best-of-seven against the Presidents' Trophy winners.
But really, Washington should win on talent alone. The Leafs won 40. Alexander Ovechkin had a rather awful season, finishing with 69 points. "We've responded well to adversity".
"Everyone's a little bit more amped up", Andersen, he of 28 playoff starts, said of the post-season atmosphere.