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              Capitals @ Maple Leafs Preview         by: Sparky      March 21, 2002


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Washington Capitals
Toronto Maple Leafs
March 21st, 2002   7:30 pm
       The Stats
36-20-9-4, 85 points
4th, Eastern Conference
2-0-1-0 vs. Washington
2.91 Goals/Game (7th)
2.49 GAA (T-11th)
16.2% PP (14th)
82.9% PK (20th)
21-7-5-0 at home
2.80 G/G
2.00 GAA
2.50 G/G 
2.60 GAA

Top Scorers
M. Sundin - 36
G. Roberts - 18
D. Tucker - 18
M. Renberg - 35
M. Sundin - 30
J. Hoglund - 28
M. Sundin - 66
M. Renberg - 45
3 tied with - 44
Schwab 8-7-4, 2.79, .891
Barrasso 13-12-5, 2.61, .906
Sparky's Take
Magic 8-Ball
       Sparky's Take
Washington was skating shorthanded in Colorado, missing recently traded Adam Oates and Dmitri Khristich (injured early in the game).  Despite the controversy and hostile environment, the Caps turned out their best game of the season to shut down and shut out the Avalanche and Patrick Roy.  With only 12 games remaining and a 5 point gap between them and the last playoff spot, the Caps are running out of time and space.  The team seemed to get the point on Tuesday, but can it continue?

Jaromir Jagr is the key to the Caps these days.  He displays his incredible puck handling and passing skills at every opportunity, generating chance after chance for himself and his linemates.  He misses Oates, for sure, but his psychic connection with Sergei Gonchar (Go Go Gonchar Back Door Feed!) is still strong.  Jagr meshed very well with Zubrus who was playing his first game as a top line center, and seemed to inspire Glenn Metropolit to new heights as well.  Bondra is also back after a short slump.  He's playing like a man posessed out there, using his size and speed to great advantage and reminding the league why he's the most dangerous guy around on the power play.  Kolzig was great against the Avs, looking like a Vezina winner again.  The defense really chipped in to control traffic and rebounds, something they'll have to keep up if they want to beat the skilled and aggressive Maple Leafs.  All in all the team looked great on Tuesday, almost great enough to forget how horrible they were in the game before that.

The Leafs are on a 6 game unbeaten streak (3-0-3-0) although four of those games were OT thrillers including the last two.  They're also undefeated against the Caps this year (2-0-1-0), but all three games were quite close.  Toronto showcases a good blend of all the key elements of NHL hockey: skill, speed, strength, and toughness.  Let by MVP candidate Mats Sundin, the Leafs are getting hot at the right time of year.  Their chances are hurt by the loss of Curtis Joseph, although Corey Schwab has done well filling in and the acquisition of Barrasso could be huge for them.

Players to Watch:

-Darcy Tucker has been in a bit of a slump since lighting the lamp twice against Philly on the 10th.  He doesn't have great size or a lot of experience, but his work ethic and drive more than make up for that.  This young center is virtually always in the middle of key plays, whether along the boards or in the slot, and has a knack for getting the puck to open team-mates.  He can be countered, especially by defensemen with long reach and good speed, but Tucker is hard to stop when he's on.

-Mats Sundin, the Super Swede, trails only Jarome Iginla in goals in the NHL.  His season-long hot streak is still on, and he's gotten points in each of his last four games.  Sundin is very strong, has good speed, but his greatest assets are his hands.  For a guy his size to have that kind of control over the puck is incredible.  Shooting, passing, or even just playing dump and chase, Sundin seems to have telekinetic control over the path of the biscuit.  He isn't the greatest defensively, but plays a very physical game which will really slow down Bondra's line.  Sundin has notched one assist in each of the three games he's played against the Caps this season.

-Tie Domi, the guy you love to hate, is our final key player.  Like Chris Simon, Domi is a brawler with skill and tends to score key goals.  He hasn't fought against a Cap this season, although Washington fans certainly remember Domi trying to provoke Matt Pettinger into a fight at MCI, then skating off when Witt stepped between the two.  He is moving towards the end of an infamous career, but still has enough pop left in him to make life miserable for opposing players, especially supposed tough guys.  On a completely unrelated note, Stephen Peat was recalled to Washington and may suit up in Toronto.

If both teams play like they have all season, Toronto will win a close game.  If the Caps can let their desperation continue to fuel them, however, the Leafs could be in for quite the surprise (unless the Avs called ahead to spill the beans).  Despite the horrible year so far, the Caps have the players and the depth to skate with anyone in the league, and have more top end talent than anyone this side of Detroit or Philly.  The trend is bad, though, as the Caps are 1-3-0-0 in games after they shut someone out.

Prediction: 4-4 tie

The Penalty Box
       The Matchups




Penalty Kill


Toronto has the edge on depth and contributions from all sides.  The Caps have Jagr and Bondra.

Despite the excellent play against the Avs, the Caps are still struggling.  Toronto is decent defensively.

Schwab can be good or bad, and the same goes for Olie Kolzig.  Hopefully Olie is getting hot, though.

The PP actually looked better without Oates than it had for quite some time with him.  Toronto ain't bad either.

Edge Leafs, the are aggressive and solid.  The Caps are doing much better of late, though.

Very tough to say.  Caps are desperate, Leafs may be demoralized by lack of trades on their behalf.

Toronto has played better team hockey this season, but the Caps can beat anyone on any given night.
       Magic 8-Ball Says...
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28-31-10-1  67 points
11th, Eastern Conference
0-2-1-0 vs. Toronto
2.70 Goals/Game (11th)
3.01 GAA  (27th)
19.6% PP (3rd)
81.5% PK  (26th)
10-19-5-0 on road
2.80 G/G 
3.20 GAA
2.60 G/G 
3.00 GAA

Top Scorers
P. Bondra - 34
J. Jagr - 27
S. Gonchar - 23
J. Jagr - 38
S. Gonchar - 32
2 tied with - 24
J. Jagr - 68
P. Bondra - 65
S. Gonchar - 58
Olaf Kolzig 24-27-7, 2.86, .902
C. Billington 4-5-3, 3.04, .879
"Will the Washington Capitals beat the Maple Leafs tonight?"

"It is decidedly so."

Well, no beating around the bush on this one, the 8-ball says that the Caps win big in Toronto with another stellar performance.
5-1 win

Magic 8-Ball's Record: