1. Shutting Down Matthews
The Capitals’ three stars of the game for Game 1 should have been Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. Not only was the line involved in two of the three goals the Caps scored, they made Auston Matthews virtually invisible. He only had one shot on goal the entire game. Trotz showed a ton of faith in his top line by giving them a lot of minutes against the Matthews line. Kuznetsov’s line won it by a mile.
By shutting down Matthews, Toronto lost their top forward line. While the Maple Leafs have three lines capable of scoring, the first line leads the way. If Matthews is limited to one shot on goal, you have a very good chance of beating the Leafs. Credit the second line for doing some darn good defensive work not just in Game 1, but the whole season. Don’t be surprised if Mike Babcock keeps his top line away from the Kuznetsov line once he gets the last change in Toronto.
In 2016, Kuzy didn’t have a good postseason and the Caps suffered. His line is key to their success this season, especially since Trotz likes matching power against power whenever possible.