Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gameday Preview: Caps vs Leafs (Round 1)

Who: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Air Canada Centre
When: Wednesday, January 23, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN+, NHL Network, TSN

Media Notes:
Caps' Site
NHL.com
Washington Post
Globe and Mail
Toronto Sun
Toronto Star
CBC.ca

Here we go again, another home and home starting in Canada - the second for the Caps this month with another one on the way against Montreal next week.

Canada has been kind to the Caps so far this year. They've played four games over the border and have won all four, outscoring their opponents 24-12. Seven of those goals came in one game against the Leafs, the first and only time these two teams have met this season. And let's not forget, this was in the pre-Boudreau era when goals were at a premium for this Caps team.

Oh how times have changed.

Since pasting a seven-spot on the Leafs back in October, the Caps have undergone a coaching change, gone from 11th place to 15th place and back up to 10th, and remembered what it's like to win again. The Leafs have dropped from 5th place to 14th place...and stayed there. It's gotten so bad in TO that yesterday the axe finally fell on GM John Ferguson, Jr., a move that was a long time in coming but may be too late to salvage the Leafs' season.

Remember how many times in recent years we've read quotes from opposing players saying things like "we can't look past them" and "no team is easy to beat"? The tables have turned, because that's exactly the attitude the Caps need to take with the Leafs.

The Caps are flying high, extending their winning streak to four for the first time all season and looking for their fifth (and sixth) against the Leafs. They've dominated Canadian teams. The Leafs are struggling.

...and that makes them dangerous. Firing a GM is almost as earth-shattering as a coaching change, so expect Toronto to come out flying tonight. They've won 19 games in their own right, so it's not as though they're pushovers, and the Caps need to just stick with the game plan that has gotten them to this point.

Two areas of concern for the Caps coming out of that shootout victory and a lot of the games before that are goaltending and penalty killing.

Olie is expected to get the start tonight while Johnny should get the home game, and a lot depends on whether the Olie who allowed only one goal in his last game at ACC shows up...or his alter ego, SieveMan. Toronto doesn't score a ton of goals but they do okay, and Olie needs to step it up. As usual.

As for specialty teams, save for the dramatic 5 on 3 overtime kill in Monday's game the Caps have let this area slide a bit too much and sit 25th in the league. Good news? The Leafs are 26th, so the Caps can make up a little ground if the power play continues to strike at the rate it has been.

Now think of this - if the Caps win both games they go into the All-Star break with first place in the division securely under their belts.

And wouldn't that be something?

2 Minutes with...Mats Sundin

CC: So, Mats. Rumors abound that you're thinking of waiving your no trade clause. Any truth to that?

MS: No. I'm staying with Toronto.

CC: Never thought about lea-

MS: [interrupting] I'm staying with Toronto.

CC: Okay, fair enough. The Leafs fired their GM yesterday - what does that do to your team now? Do you go out and try and prove everyone wrong?

MS: For sure. We let John down and now we make up for it.

CC: So about these trade rumors...

MS: I'm staying...with Toronto.

CC: Got it. Moving on. What do you think about the fans who seem to be turning on the Leafs?

MS: We'll get them back. We haven't played well enough for them and we know it, but we'll play better and get them back. We love our fans.

CC: Have you given any thought to letting them trade you?

MS: [through gritted teeth] I'm staying with TORONTO.

CC: Okay, okay, you don't have to bark. So no chance you'd leave then? Any desire to play somewhere else?

MS: I'm #$%@*(@ STAYING with Toronto!!

CC: You sure you wouldn't want to play for -

MS: Lady, this interview is over unless you - [his cell phone rings] - hang on. Hello? Yes? Wait, Ottawa wants me? Absolutely! Tell them I'll do it. Now. Waive it now! [hangs up]

CC:...so Mats, any chance you'd let Toronto trade you?

MS: [casually] I'd...consider it.

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