The Washington Capitals are trying to erase a history of postseason disappointment this season. With the top seed in the West summarily swept out of the playoffs, the door is wide open for the Capitals to win their first Stanley Cup in the team’s history. After falling behind 2-1 in this series, the refrain was that these were the same old Capitals, but Washington has responded with aplomb the last two games. They will have the chance to close out the series in Toronto on Sunday night.
Don’t miss the action on the ice from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 23, 2017. Catch every moment of the game live on NBCSN. We will have NHL playoff hockey odds at BookMaker.eu for every postseason game.
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This has been an extraordinarily tight series. Every single game has been decided by one goal with four of the five games going to overtime. Friday’s game was the lowest scoring thus far this series with the Caps scoring early in the extra frame to win 2-1. Three of the five games have ended up going over the total.
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For as great of a regular season as he had, Braden Holtby has had some struggles this postseason. Holtby has allowed an average of three goals an outing against the Maple Leafs, but stood tall in net against Toronto in a critical Game 5.
If the Caps want to get rid of their postseason demons, Holtby has got to regain the form that made him a Vezina Trophy contender for the second straight year. Assuming Washington gets by Toronto, it will have to take on Pittsburgh in the next round and he has to be on his game against the league’s best offense.
Each team is dealing with an injury to a defenseman suffered this series. Karl Alzner has missed his third straight game after playing every game in the regular season and Barry Trotz continues to say that he is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He was one of the team’s better defensemen in the regular season, averaging almost 20 minutes a game, and the Caps would love to have him back.
Toronto’s Roman Polak wasn’t as depended upon as Alzner, but was second on the team in plus/minus in the regular season. Polak has been out the last three games with a lower-body injury and the team is missing valuable depth without him in the lineup.
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Auston Matthews has not slowed down in hockey’s second season. The rookie has tallied three goals in five games against the Capitals and hasn’t had to rely on the power play to find the back of the net either. He scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs in Game 5 and is the team’s most reliable offensive option after notching 40 goals in his debut season.
Washington has relied on its regular cast of characters to score in the postseason. TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Tom Wilson, and Alex Ovechkin are all tied for the team lead in playoff goals with three apiece, and Nicklas Backstrom isn’t far behind either. The only player that has had some trouble getting on the board is Evgeny Kuznetsov.
It’s been great to see Toronto back in the postseason, but this just feels like it’s Washington’s year. The path has never been clearer for the Capitals and even though Toronto will be fired up for Game 6 on its home ice, the Caps will pull through with the win. It’s about time for Washington’s offense to fully let loose and Toronto won’t be able to keep up with its talented stars. Look for Washington to win by multiple goals and take the series.
NHL Playoff Odds: Capitals 5, Maple Leafs 2
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