This is the big one, folks. No, it’s not the Stanley Cup Final just yet but we’ve got ourselves a David vs. Goliath match in the first round of the playoffs.
The Washington Capitals have all the pressure on them. They’re as deep as they’ve been in years and their path to the Stanley Cup has never been clearer. Except, they’ve got to get through the young and scrappy Toronto Maple Leafs lead by Calder favorite Auston Matthews.
Alex Ovechkin vs. Matthews. Nick Backstrom vs. Mitch Marner. Braden Holtby vs. Frederik Andersen. The star power will be out in Washington on Thursday.
The Capitals and Maple Leafs played just three times this season, but all were high-scoring affairs. Washington won the series 2-1, with the highlight being a 6-5 overtime victory in early January. Considering these teams boast pretty incredible offensive power, it’s no surprise at least one team scored four goals in each of the games.
Instead, those teams typically have the luxury to focus on the defensive side of the ball with the knowledge that a player like Brady or Manning (pre-2015 edition) didn’t need top 10 picks around him to make an offense hum.
Teams without a franchise quarterback over the last five years — like the Cleveland Browns or Houston Texans — are much more prone to be in the hunt for a passer and fill the rest of the offense with talent. Four of Cleveland’s eight first-round picks over the last five years were offensive skill players, as well as two of Houston’s four first-round picks over the last four years.
The moral of the story is: It’s sure nice to have a good quarterback.