Kadri still looking for first marker
Five games in and Toronto Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, coming off back-toback 32-goal seasons, remains in search of his first goal this season. Kadri will likely go up against Lars Eller at even strength when Toronto matches up against the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals in Washington on Saturday night. Kadri might want to forget he’s had just four goals in 20 career games against Washington. Eller can get under an opponent’s skin.
Here are five things to watch for:
1. Lock it down
As Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly attempt to make further inroads in the NHL record book, the Leafs can’t get away from themselves like they did in Detroit. It’s one thing to allow a sub-par Red Wings team to control the game in the final 20 minutes and win, it’s another to allow the dangerous and experienced Capitals, at any point in the game, the same freedom.
2. Play with fire
Only seven teams have been short-handed more often than Washington, which has been down 15 times. Caps penalty killers have been good on 12 of those short-handed situations. But as we’ve seen, the Leafs don’t need numerous chances to score on power plays, making good on 50 per cent of their opportunities.
3. Work the circle
When he’s not scoring, Matthews is winning faceoffs, clipping along at a Leafs-high 55.5 per cent (good for 29th in the NHL). The Caps are carrying just a 43 per cent in Corsi, and part of the reason is their abysmal showing at the dot, sitting 30th at 42 per cent. The Leafs are a shade over 50 per cent in Corsi.
4. On the spot
John Tavares’ hot start with the Leafs — six goals and four assists in five games — has been overshadowed, if only a bit, by the production of Matthews and Rielly. It’s worth noting that for years on an inferior New York Islanders team, Tavares did fine against Washington, recording 30 points (15 goals and 15 assists) in 34 games.
5. Caps crunched
The Capitals were beaten 6-0 by the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday, and it served as a reminder that teams will get up for games against the defending Cup champs.
“Years past, I remember playing games against the team that won (the Cup) and using it as a measuring stick,” defenceman Matt Niskanen said. “We’ll have to learn how to deal with that.”