The Stanley Cup Playoffs are starting, and now we can look ahead to the Washington Capitals first round opponent.
The Stanley Cup Playoff bracket is set. Finally the Washington Capitals know who they will be facing in Round 1. They’ll be facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. It took until the final day of the NHL regular season for the second wild card slot to be confirmed. However, now Washington Capitals fans can look ahead at the series matchup which begins Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. ET.
To avoid facing the President’s Trophy winning Capitals, the Maple Leafs had to earn just one point in their final game. Toronto ended up losing in regulation, and now their path to the Finals is much harder than if they could have remained in the Atlantic Division side of the Eastern bracket.
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Veterans vs Rookies
This Round 1 matchup features two completely different teams. The Caps consist of playoff experienced veterans who know that this may be their best chance to ever win a Stanley Cup. This group of Caps is determined more than ever to get past the second round of the playoffs and finally win the whole tournament. This 2017 roster is the most complete and team that has been put together in the Alex Ovechkin era. With key players hitting free agency next year, this Caps team will look quite different after this season finishes.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Maple Leafs’ core is made up of either rookies or players with just a few years of NHL experience. Auston Matthews has absolutely taken the league by storm and is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy which is awarded to the best rookie. He has led Toronto with 40 goals, and the Maple Leafs look to be set for a bright future ahead. Although the team is very young, head coach Mike Babcock is one of the most experienced and successful NHL coaches and this will be a key factor when the playoffs begin.
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Regular Season Recap
These two teams played each other three times in the regular season. Back in November, Toronto defeated the Caps 4-2. They had success against the Caps in the second game as well, but ended up losing a thriller 6-5 in OT. In the final regular season matchup, the Maple Leafs had a chance to beat the Caps and give themselves a much better chance at staying top 3 in the Atlantic. Instead, Washington dominated Toronto from start to finish while going on to win 4-1.
It is easy to expect the Caps to totally dominant this series and advance after 4 or 5 games. The team must be cautious not to take this young Maple Leafs team lightly though, as they possess a lot of skill and speed which can take advantage of turnovers or other mistakes. Overall, the Caps should be much better 5v5 as they have advantages in just about every position on the ice.
I predict the Caps win the series in five games. The lone Maple Leafs win comes in a low scoring OT game. This should be a very entertaining series, as solidified superstars take on the young guns who have put the NHL in good hands for years to come.