What to Watch!

Welcome to the What to Watch segment! Your key NHL match-up to post on the radar for your weekend viewing.

For this weekend’s pick I will have to go with the Washington Capitals at the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night. Two Eastern Conference clubs that have been playing some good hockey thus far in the 2011-12 campaign.

Keys to victory for the Capitals:

3 Strikes: The Caps have hit a mini-slump and have lost 3 in a row heading into Toronto. They obviously aren’t happy with that considering the great start they had. They will need to get back to the the 3-zone game dominance that propelled them to the top of the Southeast Division if they want 2 points Saturday.

The Leafs won't be rolling out a red carpet for Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

Man-Up: The Caps have been pretty darn good on the power-play thus far. Clicking along at an 18.5% success rate, ranking them 4th in the Eastern Conference. They will need to take advantage of any PP opportunities they get Saturday Night at The Air Canada Centre if they want this win on the road.

Saint Nick: The Caps have been led on the stats page by C Nicklas Backstrom thus far. His 20 points (5G, 15A) has taken some pressure off Alex Ovechkin, and helped Washington win on nights when ‘Alex the Great’ has been kept off the board. For the Caps to be on form in T.O. Backstrom will have to keep his consistency going.

Keys to victory for the Leafs:

3’s are Wild: Like the Capitals, the Leafs are on a mini-skid at the moment, also with 3 losses on the trot. The good news for the Buds is that they have been solid on home ice with a 5-3-2 mark thus far. To get out of this slump they’ll need to take advantage of their ACC success thus far.

Phil the Thrill: Be honest here! Who had Phil Kessel leading the NHL in Goals – 13, and points – 25, at this point in November?! He’s the main reason the Leafs have been a real threat in the East thus far, and the reason that coach Ron Wilson still has his job. For both of these scenarios to go on, Kessel will have to continue his magical ride.

Phil Kessel has been huge for the Leafs this season. Photo courtesy - sportsnet.ca

The Killers: Despite the nice start, the Leafs have been dreadful on the penalty-kill. They rank last overall in the entire Eastern Conference with a horrible 74.3% PK rate! It’s a wonder they have been playing so well with the PK being that bad. If they are to win at home Saturday, they will need to be better on special-teams against a Washington team that can score goals in bunches on the PP.

Enjoy this tilt Saturday! It should be an interesting match-up, and one of these clubs is going to break a losing streak, so it’s all to play for. Post any comments or observations you have about the ‘What to Watch‘ game in the ‘Mailbag‘ section, and I will gladly respond! Have a great NHL weekend.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

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