Although the Capitals’ win over Montreal was a big one to boost their confidence, the players know their work is far from over. Saturday’s contest in Toronto looms large and is against one of the teams Washington is jockeying with day in and day out for points.
The Maple Leafs are looking to get on track after posting a 1-6-1 record in their past eight games, so that they can keep pace with the rest of the playoff contenders. The Capitals, who have not won consecutive games since mid-January, simply can’t afford to give Toronto momentum, or erase their own with a setback tonight at Air Canada Centre.
The win over Montreal is “good, the two points are good, the confidence is good,” Brooks Laich told reporters following the 4-1 victory against the Canadiens. “But it’s the same thing if you lose a hockey game, if you win a hockey game — you’ve got to move on to the next one. There’s a reason we won [Friday] and we’ve got to make sure that we duplicate that [in Toronto].”
Toronto is expected to start James Reimer in net against the Capitals. He is 1-1-1 in his career against Washington and has struggled recently. In his past six outings, which date back to Feb. 6, Reimer is 2-4 with a .874 save percentage and 3.87 goals-against average.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear who will get the nod as starter for Washington.
Michal Neuvirth put forth a sound, 30-save performance against the Canadiens that didn’t require many eye-popping stops on Friday but he gave the Capitals the support they needed to secure a win.
“He was solid. He was real solid,” Coach Dale Hunter said of Neuvirth against Montreal. “He didn’t give up many rebounds and I thought the D did a good job in front of him not giving them a lot of scoring chances, either.”
The 23-year-old Neuvirth hasn’t started on back-to-back days this season, though, and it’s possible Hunter could go back to veteran Tomas Vokoun against the Maple Leafs. Vokoun was pulled in consecutive games earlier this week and was the subject of heavy criticism from Hunter after a 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Feb. 22.
Given that Vokoun may still see the bulk of the action down the stretch, however, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him back in tonight. Over his past 12 starts (including the games in which he was pulled), Vokoun has stopped all but 27 of the 316 shots he’s faced for a .914 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average.