Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, Alex Ovechkin Faceoff

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs battle the Washington Capitals at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.

All eyes will be on playmakers Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin as the Toronto Maple Leafs look to get another win on the road. They are coming off a hard-fought win against the Montreal Canadiens, in which Matthews notched the game-winning goal in overtime. Matthews has looked extremely dominant for the Leafs so far this season. He has five goals and three assists in five games.

The Russian Offensive Superstar

Matthews and the Leafs take on Ovechkin and the Capitals, who have been off to a decent start. While the Capitals have had a couple of shaky games, their captain, Ovechkin, has tallied nine goals and one assist in six games.

While the Capitals have had a couple of shaky games, their captain, Ovechkin, has tallied nine goals and one assist in six games.

Ovechkin and his line-mates, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana, have developed strong chemistry and are the best number one in the Eastern Conference besides the Leafs’ top line of Matthews, Zach Hyman, and William Nylander.

Even though Ovechkin is lethal in the offensive zone, he does have his flaws.

Ovechkin’s Flaws

At a young age, my family and I moved down to Maryland. Quickly enough, my father and I began to support the Capitals. We needed a team that was close to home to cheer on when the Leafs weren’t in town.

My dad and I saw many talented Capitals including Adam Oates, Steve Konowalcuk, Brendan Witt, Olaf Kolzig, Jaromir Jagr, Mike Green, Peter Bondra, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin.

When the Capitals drafted Ovechkin, they were looking to rebound after a terrible 2002-2003 regular season.

As soon as Ovechkin tallied his first NHL goal in the 2005-2006 season, Capitals fans fell in love with the Moscow native.

Since then, Ovechkin has become an offensive workhorse. To date, Ovechkin has 567 career goals and 478 career assists. In addition, Ovechkin is a strong threat on the Capitals’ power-play. In his career, he’s scored 214 goals on the power-play.

In January of 2010, former Capitals general manager George McPhee named Ovechkin captain.

That was a mistake. Why?

For starters, Ovechkin has never been known for coming back to support his team in the defensive zone. He’ll just skate back to the zone and wait for someone to pass him the puck.

He also doesn’t fore-check, nor does he poke-check, unless it’s the playoffs.

Let’s Look at the Stats

If you take a look at Ovechkin’s advanced stats, you’ll notice that there is a growing decline in his defensive play. Since the 2014-15 regular season, Ovechkin’s corsi-for percentage has continued to drop little by little.

This season, Ovechkin’s corsi-for percentage is terrible. His percentage in six games is 53.8, the lowest of his NHL career.

Oddly enough, Barry Trotz has had Ovechkin out on the ice in more defensive zone starts than ever before in his career. Ovechkin’s defensive zone start percentage is currently 43.1.

I’m not too sure why Trotz has decided to put him in more defensive situations, but then again I’m not a head coach.

But maybe Trotz should take a look at this video. You’ll see how bad Ovechkin is on defense.

As an NHL captain, you need to be effective on both sides of the ice. You can’t be selfish and be the LeBron James of the NHL. Hockey doesn’t work like basketball, where in some situations having a ball-hog can be pivotal.

Without Ovechkin coming back on defense, the Capitals will never be the team they aspire to be.

Auston Matthews Has Truly Been Improving Defensively

Personally, I think Matthews is ten times better than Ovechkin.

As fellow Editor in Leaf contributor Eduardo Razo mentioned in his latest post, Matthews truly has been improving defensively this season.

Matthews has raised his corsi-for percentage to 60.9 and has significantly increased his defensive zone start percentage to 50.

I believe that Matthews will continue to grow as a two-way forward and will dominate on both sides of the ice.

He still has a way to go to be thought of as the best two-way forward in the NHL, but he is significantly better than Ovechkin on defense.

Prediction For Tonight’s Game

The Leafs are due for another nail-biter. I think this game will be high scoring, but as long as the Leafs can stay out of the penalty box then they should have a fighting chance to grab a win.

The Capitals will definitely keep this game close. Aside from Ovechkin’s line, the Capitals have strong offensive depth including Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie, and Backstrom.

However, the Leafs should be able to trump the Capitals. My prediction for the final score is 6-5 for the Leafs.

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