Leafs, Caps aim to end slumps before All-Star break
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals both enter the final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday looking for the same thing -- some better results.
The host Maple Leafs have lost their past two and are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games. General manager Kyle Dubas said at a Tuesday press conference that his team, which is loaded with young talent, needs to fight through this tough time and find the answers.
Toronto's players also seem to believe that this is just a bad stretch that the team will overcome.
"I think we're going through some adversity as a team, and we want to get out of it as soon as possible," forward Auston Matthews said, according to NHL.com, after Toronto's 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. "Hopefully in the long run this is something good for us and we learn from it."
The Leafs are dealing with a few injury issues. Forward Andreas Johnsson came out of the Arizona game late in the second period due to a concussion, and he will not play against Washington.
Toronto coach Mike Babcock told the media that Trevor Moore would be called up from the AHL's Toronto Marlies to fill that spot. Plus, the status of defenseman Jake Gardiner (back spasms) was uncertain.
As for the future, Dubas said new contract talks involving Matthews are moving along. However, the agent for Mitch Marner, the team's other star 21-year-old, has asked not to have negotiations take place until after the season.
Marner, who tops Toronto with 61 points in 48 games, and Matthews will be restricted free agents after the season.
The Capitals are stumbling through their worst stretch of the season. Washington has lost six straight (0-4-2) following a stunning 7-6 defeat to the visiting San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
Washington held a 6-5 lead before Evander Kane tied the game with just one tick left on the clock. Tomas Hertl then scored 1:48 into overtime to give San Jose the win.
The Capitals have not been playing the kind of defense that was their trademark in the final part of last season. They've allowed a combined 15 goals in the past two games and have been inconsistent on the penalty kill and power play.
Coach Todd Reirden held a meeting with the players before practice Monday, and the players held a closed-door meeting after an 8-5 loss at Chicago on Sunday. Yet the Capitals fell again on Tuesday despite getting three goals and an assist from Alex Ovechkin.
Washington needs to find consistency at both ends of the ice, something that's been eluding the Stanley Cup champions lately. The Capitals keep making costly mistakes such as a turnover that gave the Sharks a rare three-on-none breakaway and a goal.
"That was not Washington Capital hockey," Reirden said postgame. "We learned a hard lesson ... tonight. For whatever reason, we continue to make mistakes, and it ends up in the back of our net."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 23, 2019