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Toronto not scared of daunting first round playoff matchup against Washington

Toronto not scared of daunting first round playoff matchup against Washington

If the Toronto Maple Leafs are worried about having to play the best team in the NHL, they’re not showing it.

On Sunday, the Maple Leafs had the chance to earn third place in the Atlantic Division. All they needed was one point in their final regular season game. Instead, they lost in regulation to the Columbus Blue Jackets and slid back into the second wild card spot thus setting up a series with Washington.

Granted, for a Toronto team that was not expected to reach the postseason this year, it would be hard to be disappointed, but that doesn’t make the task for a young Maple Leafs team of somehow finding a way to beat the Caps any less daunting.

“They are big, they are strong, they are fast, they have been beaten a number of times in the playoffs, so they are battle-tested to say the least,” Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said, “and they are as hungry as any team in the NHL and playing as good.”

“They’re the best team in the league,” rookie phenom Auston Matthews said. “Obviously they’re really talented. …  We have to be ready to compete, ready to work hard.”

RELATED: Playoff Power Rankings: Who is the team to beat?

But while the Leafs may be saying the right things, they are also making it very clear that they aren’t scared of Washington.

“Scare us? Nah, I don’t think they should,” Matthews said. “They’re a good team, but they’re not unbeatable.”

“The playoffs are not going to be easy no matter how you skin the cat,” defenseman Connor Carrick said. “So let’s go to work. We’re going to go into someone’s building and try to give them hell.

A former Cap himself, Carrick also knows what’s at stake for Washington this season.

“It’s a big year for them, a lot on the line. I know teams talk about opportunities and windows and all that, and this looks like some prime years for some of their better players so there is a lot of pressure on them to come out.”

That’s the interesting part of these early matchups between contenders and teams like Toronto. Yes, the Caps are the heavy favorites, but a lot of pressure comes with that. Toronto, meanwhile, has no expectations. Just getting to this point is an accomplishment.

That can be a very freeing feeling. The Leafs are playing with house money while the weight of the world rests on Washington’s shoulders. Is that enough for an upset? No, but that is how the frontrunners lose control of a series. If Toronto wins just one of the first two games in Washington, the pressure will build for the Caps while the confidence will grow for the Leafs.

Suddenly, the underdog begins to believe they can win.

Judging by the players’ early thoughts on this series, it certainly sounds as if the Leafs already do.

Said defenseman Jake Gardiner, “You gotta beat the best at some point so might as well do it in the first round.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL 2017 Capitals Playoff schedule

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Heroes on the ice: Every Capitals player's superhero character

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USA TODAY Sports, Marvel and DC Comics

Heroes on the ice: Every Capitals player's superhero character

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Washington Capitals!

It's not hard to picture your favorite athletes as superheroes. What the Caps are able to do on the ice seems almost superhuman at times.

Heck, they even have uniforms!

SEE EVERY CAPITALS PLAYER'S SUPERHERO CHARACTER HERE

But the similarities don't just end with the physical attributes and abilities. When you begin to really think about each player, you can see a lot of similarities between each of them and some well-known superheroes.

If each Caps player was a superhero, which one would they be? Check out each player's superhero character here.

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

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USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.

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