Earlier I wrote 3 reasons why the Toronto Maple Leafs could do the unthinkable and pull off the upset over the Washington Capitals. As Game 1 draws closer (7 p.m., CSN), let's take a more positive look. Here are three reasons why you should feel confident that Washington will be able to get the job done in the first round.
1. Braden Holtby
One thing Washington did not have in the infamous Montreal series of 2010 was a dependable goalie. Jose Theodore started the first two games of the series but was pulled in Game 2 with a .875 save percentage and 3.70 GAA. That’s bad. Semyon Varlamov took over for Theodore and was better, but still not great with a .908 save percentage and 2.41 GAA. Braden Holtby currently has the best save playoff save percentage ever at .938. Varlamov was not the ultimate downfall of the Caps in 2010, but Washington led the series 3-1 after four games. How different would that series have been with better goaltending through those first four games?
2. Toronto’s defense
The Maple Leafs seem to have an aversion to two-goal leads given how often they seemed to give them away. Of all 16 playoff teams, no one allowed more goals per game in the regular season (2.85) than Toronto. That defense also took a hit with the news that Nikita Zaitsev will miss Game 1, Washington’s offense should be able to make short work of the Maple Leafs’ blue line.
3. Toronto’s Inexperience
The Caps may have struggled to go deep into the postseason the last few years, but over time they still have accumulated a good amount of playoff experience. Coming into this series, Washington has 1,017 games of combined playoff experience. Toronto? Only 292. Experience matters in the postseason. Inexperience is why things spiraled out of Columbus’ control Wednesday against Pittsburgh. Inexperience is why Edmonton gave up a 2-0 lead at home against San Jose on Wednesday. Inexperience is a big reason why no one is giving Toronto much of a chance in this series.