Ovechkin: Leafs 'have to play differently' if they want to win Stanley Cup

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin offered his blunt assessment on what the Toronto Maple Leafs must change if they want to win a Stanley Cup.

“They’re still young group of guys. I hope they’re gonna learn," Ovechkin told the assembled media, including Yahoo Sports Canada, ahead of Tuesday night's contest. "But it’s up to them how they want to do it. If they want to play for yourself or if they want to win Stanley Cup, they have to play differently.”

Ovechkin's Capitals eliminated a young Maple Leafs team in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs. Over two years later, Toronto is still searching for its first playoff series victory with its core group and has struggled out of the gate in October.

With a 6-5-2 record this season, the Leafs have been mired by slow starts and poor defensive play. The club has conceded the opening goal in 10 of its 13 contests and ranks 24th defensively - allowing 3.38 goals against per game.

Auston Matthews, despite already scoring nine goals this season, has received criticism for his subpar defensive play. Ovechkin offered the 22-year-old some words of encouragement when he was asked about the Leafs' blue-chip center.

"He's still young, he is going to be a great player, and he is right now," Ovechkin said, according to the Washington Post's Samantha Pell. "Again, it is good thing - like, he wants to learn and he wants to be better, so it's nice."

Tuesday marks the second of three meetings between the two sides this season. The Capitals defeated the Leafs 4-3 in Washington on Oct. 16.

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Ovechkin: Leafs 'have to play differently' if they want to win Stanley Cup
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