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Get to Know a Maple Leaf: Jake Gardiner

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As part of the build-up to the first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Maple Leafs, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important Leafs players and how they might impact the series.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Gardiner

#51 / Defense / Toronto Maple Leafs

Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200 | Born: July 4, 1990

Birthplace: Minnetonka, MN, USA | Drafted: 17th, 2008 (Anaheim)

  • Assets: Is a quality asset in the offensive zone. Skates well due to an effortless stride. Has offensive ability, likes to join the attack and can quarterback a power play. Owns a projectable 6-2 frame.
  • Flaws: Makes a lot of bad mistakes with the puck, so he must clean things up defensively. Must also become a little more assertive in his decision-making, as well as keep his intensity level on high.
  • Career Potential: Mobile, offensive defenseman with defensive issues.

Career 20-Game Rolling Five-on-Five CF% (via Corsica):

2016-17 Usage Chart (via Corsica):

Why you should know who he is: Gardiner has thrived for Mike Babcock on the blueline this season, setting career high marks in assists (34) and points (43). Skating in all 82 contests this season the sixth year professional averaged better than a point per game in Toronto. He can distribute and skate the puck in all three zones and he serves a useful role on the man advantage, tallying 13 points on the power play this year. Gardiner tallied two game winning goals for the Maple Leafs this year, both of which came in overtime.

How the Caps can stop him: Washington’s forwards, and most importantly their bottom six, need to put their body onto Gardiner and make it difficult for the smart, mobile defenseman to execute plays easily. Their ability to pressure Gardiner and force him into a tough situations could be a key piece of the Capitals’ offense when forechecking deep inside Toronto’s zone. The youthful NHL veteran (406 GP) has the experience and skill to do damage in the offensive zone so Washington’s best bet is to force him and his linemates to skate 200 feet each and every shift.