One point. That’s all the Toronto Maple Leafs could grab from the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night as the Maple Leafs dropped a 4-3 overtime contest to Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals.
The Maple Leafs dropped to 6-5-3 through their first 15 games of the season and, while they’ve shown glimpses of brilliance, there are still many aspects of their game that need to be worked out if they are going to be a playoff team come spring time.
With that, here’s what we can take away from their overtime loss at the hands of the Capitals.
More and More Power Plays
I feel like I’ve written about this after nearly every game so far this season. The Maple Leafs get their opportunities on the power play, but are giving up far too many chances to their opposition as well.
Well, it was no different on Tuesday night. The Maple Leafs had eight – that’s right, eight – power plays over the course of the game. The team went one-for-eight with the man advantage when Auston Matthews tallied his second goal of the game just under two minutes into the third period.
That’s seven opportunities – including one late in the third period – that the Maple Leafs couldn’t take advantage of.
On the other side, the Maple Leafs took seven penalties of their own. The Capitals, while not overly more successful than their counterparts in blue and white, did score twice on their opportunities – including the game-winning goal in overtime. The goal came from – you guessed it – Ovechkin who was sitting in his usual spot with the man advantage.
Ovechkin’s Career Against Maple Leafs
Speaking of the Russian forward, Ovechkin’s had quite the career against the Maple Leafs and it didn’t stop on Tuesday. Ovechkin tallied two goals and two assists in his team’s 4-3 win which was his 50th game against the Maple Leafs in his illustrious career.
Over that time, Ovechkin has collected 41 goals and 73 points – averaging 1.46 points per game. On top of that, including his overtime winner on Tuesday, Ovechkin has six game-winning goals against the Maple Leafs in those 50 games.
Career-wise, his 11 goals this season puts him at 669. That’s just 15 back of Teemu Selanne for 11th on the NHL’s all-time list and just 225 back of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record.
Ovechkin played another big role leading into this contest. He had some choice comments before the game that could add to a blooming rivalry that was started a few years ago in the first-round of the playoffs.
“I think for them, they are still a young group of guys and I hope they’re going to learn,” said the Russian star prior to the game. “It’s up to them how they want to do it and if they want to play for yourself, or if they want to win a Cup, they have to play differently.”
With the way the game went – a penalty-filled affair – and one that had a physical undercoating, it’s clear that there is something boiling between these two teams. And whether Ovechkin spoke from experience or not, the fact is he dictated exactly what he thinks is wrong with the Maple Leafs at this point in time.
So, naturally, Matthews responded following the contest.
It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few meetings.
Carlson Becoming Unstoppable
On top of Ovechkin, the Maple Leafs had another player they had to keep a close eye on and they struggled with it. Capitals defenceman John Carlson is off to the hottest start of his career, and like Ovechkin, it continued on Tuesday with two goals for the Capitals.
The two tallies gave him seven goals and 23 points through the team’s first 14 games of the season and has him second in the NHL in scoring behind only Boston’s David Pastrnak.
Carlson has three goals and five points in two games against the Maple Leafs this season, just one more weapon that oppositions will have to keep an eye on very closely this season – especially as his confidence continues to grow.
A silver lining for the Maple Leafs in the loss was the return of Travis Dermott to the lineup. Dermott missed the first 13 games of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, but returned Tuesday night.
Dermott played just under 13 minutes of ice-time including nearly four minutes on the penalty kill and finished with a blocked shot.
While it wasn’t the most exciting return numbers-wise, he’ll be an important piece for the Maple Leafs moving forward. With his return, Martin Marincin remained out of the lineup and Kevin Gravel was loaned back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
Also Worth Noting…
Three Maple Leafs played career-high minutes in Tuesday night’s affair, including Morgan Rielly (33:16), Mitch Marner (25:35) and Justin Holl (20:25).
Matthews tallied two goals and one assist in the game which brought his season totals to 11 goals and 16 points in 14 games. Matthews had an incredible tip on the first goal and he followed that up with a wrist shot for his second tally. As The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel tweeted, Matthews has scored in all sorts of ways over his career. Of his 122 goals, 67 of them have been wrist shots, while 12 have now been tip-ins.
Nylander tallied one assist on Tuesday. It was his ninth point in 14 games this season – an average of 0.64 points per game. That’s slightly lower than his career totals which have him averaging 0.67 points per game over 253 career regular season games.
The Maple Leafs are now off until Saturday when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.