The Capitals face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round starting on Thursday (7 p.m., CSN). While Washington may be the overwhelming favorites, there are still reasons to worry about Toronto. Here are three reasons to be nervous about a possible upset by the Maple Leafs.
1. Mike Babcock
Babcock is one of, if not the best coach in the NHL. He has won one Stanley Cup, three conference championships, three Olympic gold medals, one World Championship and one World Cup. As young and as inexperienced as the Leafs are, Babcock is the right coach to prepare his young team for playoff hockey. A good coach can get the most out of his players. He has already done that by getting them into the postseason. What else can he do now that he's led Toronto to the playoffs?
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2. Toronto’s power play
It was another strong season for the Caps’ power play. With a success rate of 23.1-percent, Washington’s unit finished tied for third in the NHL. Toronto, however, finished second with 23.8-percent. No team in the NHL took more penalties from Jan. 1 on than the Capitals. If they stay undisciplined in the postseason, the Leafs have a power play good enough to make them pay.
3. Frederik Andersen
Remember Jaroslav Halak? Of course you do. In 2010, Halak led the Montreal Canadiens to an unthinkable upset of the Caps. In that series, Halak stifled Washington with a .939 save percentage. Andersen is even better. While with the Anaheim Ducks, Andersen was incredible in five playoff games in 2016 with a .947 save percentage and 1.41 GAA. If he can put up similar numbers against Washington, he will give the Leafs a chance.
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The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.
The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.
St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game.
Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.
Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.
Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.
Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.
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The St. Louis Blues' two-goal first period powered them to a win over the San Jose Sharks, and the series is now tied.
The Blues started with a goal 35 seconds into the game. Ivan Barbashev picked off a Brent Burns exit pass and flung it towards the net for the games opening goal.
Barbashev is the second Blues player to score in the first minute of a game these playoffs. Jaden Schwartz is the other player.
Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal for the Blues on a power play off a scramble in front of the net.
The Sharks responded when Thomas Hertl poked the puck past the goal line after Jordan Binnington thought he had the puck covered. Hertl now has 10 goals this postseason for the Sharks, and the team now features 10 or more players to score 10+ goals in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.
Binnington's 29 save performance gave him his 10th win of the playoffs, the most of any Blues goaltender in franchise history.
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