The Toronto Maple Leafs gave the Washington Capitals all they could handle in an epic first-round playoff series. All six games were decided by one goal, five games went to overtime, and Toronto even led the series 2-1.
Despite losing the series, the Leafs have a lot to be proud of – and a lot to look forward to.
“I think you see a team that’s certainly on the come in the Toronto Maple Leafs,” NBC Sports NHL analyst Eddie Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The got some great young players. Auston Matthews is a thoroughbred. He is a horse-and-a-half. This kid, he’s got it all.”
Matthews, 19, scored four goals in the series. He scored 40 goals and had 29 assists in 82 games this year but may have been fatigued by the end of the season.
“I think at times maybe the season may have gotten to Mathews,” Olczyk said. “He looked a little bit worn out. This is his first year of pro hockey in the NHL level, so I think that maybe he was just a little gassed.”
The Capitals, meanwhile, answered the bell after falling behind 2-1 in the series. They won three straight games, including two in Toronto.
“At the end of the day, the Washington Capitals had all the pressure on them,” Olczyk said. “It looked like they had the Leafs on the run a couple of times, the Leafs came back – (it was) a great building block for the Leafs going forward. But for the Capitals, I think they showed a little bit of something. Let’s see if they can take it into the next series against the Penguins.”
Washington hosts Pittsburgh in Game 1 on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Penguins beat Columbus, 4-1, in their first-round playoff series, but they allowed nine goals in Games 3 and 4.
Pittsburgh can’t do that against Washington.
“If the Penguins play the same way for a good stretch of this Capitals series as they did against the Blue Jackets, it’s going to be a real long series,” Olczyk said. “They’re going to have to be better defensively from top to bottom from the start of the series to the end of the series. But look, Caps, Penguins, (Alex Ovechkin), (Sidney Crosby) – it doesn’t get much better than that.”