After missing the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, the Washington Capitals look to be the doormat of the Metropolitan Division in 2023-24.
This is undoubtedly a first in Alex Ovechkin’s career, as the Caps have gotten out to a lethargic 1-2-1 start with a minus-10 goal differential.
It would be one thing if this was the first step in a rebuild, but that process hasn’t even begun in the Capitol.
The Caps were the second-oldest team in the NHL heading into October, and it seems as if that’s just the way the front office wants it.
Rather than selling for future draft capital, management decided to double down on this core again and added two 30-plus-aged players in Max Pacioretty and Joel Edmundson (who cost them two draft picks).
Both players began the campaign on injured reserve.
Maple Leafs vs. Capitals prediction
It’s only been a sample size of four games, but the players who are healthy have been underwhelming — Washington is 29th in 5-on-5 expected goals and sports an expected goal difference of -1.15.
The Capitals’ once-lethal power-play unit has gone dull at 0-for-13.
They have also had issues with killing penalties and carry a team save percentage of .886.
The Maple Leafs have undoubtedly been one of the league’s deepest rosters for several years now; they’re just seemingly allergic to the spring.
Toronto has played in some high-scoring affairs throughout its 3-2 start. It resides on the other end of the expected goals spectrum at 13.6 (ranked second) and a 2.44 difference.
The Leafs are throwing the kitchen sink on the net as they lead the NHL with 38.6 shots per game, while the Caps allow 33 (24th).
They boast a 52.5 Corsi For Percentage and also rank first with 3.8 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5.
William Nylander and John Tavares are spearheading the offensive generation with nine points apiece, which is tied for fourth in the NHL.
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Auston Matthews is off with six; both he and Morgan Rielly potted three points in two games against Washington last season.
Expect those kinds of fortunes to continue as Sheldon Keefe’s stoic Leafs give the Caps all they can handle Tuesday night in D.C.
The pick: Leafs moneyline (-169, Caesars Sportsbook)
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