Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Leivo and Kapanen scored important goals Saturday against the Washington Capitals.
Kasperi Kapanen scored an equalizer and Josh Leivo netted the game winning goal on the power play, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Washington Capitals 4-2 in their first meeting of the 2018/19 NHL regular season.
Matthews’ point streak and his early season dominance have both been covered extensively. For that reason, this article focuses on the work done by the Leafs’ depth players, specifically Kapanen and Leivo.
Their efforts support the team, and although they don’t get the same attention as its superstar players, they are valuable too. Similar to how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; the Toronto Maple leafs are only has strong as their depth players.
Kapanen’s game tying goal early in the second period was a work of art.
The play started when Matthews outsmarted two defending Capitals with a quick spin move and a saucer pass from his backhand to Ron Hainsey. Hainsey made no mistake when he received the pass. He slid to his right enough to use the defenders as a screen on Holty, then let a wrist shot go that Kapanen was able to deflect.
Kapanen looks great with Matthews, the pair are a dynamic duo. Ask yourself this: would Zach Hyman have had the hands necessary to finish that play initiated by Matthews and the NHL veteran Ron Hainsey? I’d answer that question with a “no”, but we may have differing perspectives.
Kapanen isn’t leaving Matthews’ wing when Nylander resolves his contract dispute and returns. If anything, it’ll be Marleau who finds himself reassigned to Kadri’s line to make room for Nylander (when/if he earns back his spot on the Leafs’ top line).
At this point of the season, Kapanen is a point per game player. In the four games he’s played with Matthews he’s earned two goals and four assists and they all came at even strength.
Leivo’s goal was less of a work of art in comparison to Kapanen’s goal, but it was still nice.
The sequence on Leivo’s goal went something like this:
- Jake Gardiner fed a pass over to Connor Brown;
- Brown quickly sent the puck over to Andreas Johnsson at centre ice;
- Johnsson fanned on a shot that was blocked by a Washington defensemen;
- Leivo picked up the rebound and tucked in behind a sprawled out Holtby.
It certainly wasn’t as pretty as the Kapanen’s goal, but it was significant because it was the first point of the season for both Leivo and Johnsson.
History has shown that Leivo needs to put up points if he is going to stay on the team, let alone its second power play unit. Leivo’s game winning goal against the defending Stanley Cup Champions was huge, and hopefully will elevate his confidence, spurring a point streak.
Leivo’s goal was important for Andreas Johnsson too. If that play had of died after that fanned shot, Johnsson would have finished yet another game without a point and the Calder Cup MVP may have found himself back in the press box next game.
Hopefully Leivo and Johnsson both impressed head coach Mike Babcock with their play against Washington. Their NHL careers depend on his receiving his approval. The same can be said about Kapanen. He needs to hope he impressed Babcock too because nothing in the NHL is guaranteed. Kapanen won’t stay on the top line indefinitely if his production and his work ethic don’t warrant it.