Tonight marks a time for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they will come up against a quick, accurate team like the Colorado Avalanche. The Leafs will count on continued solid play from Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner to produce for them as well as they have been lately.
The Avalanche has a high-flying offense led by Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan McKinnon. They are also a very good team defensively and Semyon Varlamov has been solid in goal.
The Avalanche are a determined team that is well coached and ready to take the next step. The Leafs are playing an opponent who is better than they are right now on the tail end of back-to-back road games. They played very well last night in Phoenix, but can they keep up the solid play in Denver tonight?
I think the key for the Leafs will be keeping Kadri and their defense (Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Gardiner) engaged on the offensive side of the puck. Of course, Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk can be counted on to be their normal, productive selves.
The Avalanche has a way of frustrating offensively-minded teams and trapping them in their own zone, so this may prove to be a more difficult game than the Leafs anticipate. However, these are the kind of games that Toronto needs to be able to win this year, and it is a “bonus” game in the standings, as they won yesterday.
The Leafs are still far from where they believe that they should be in the standings. Contrary to advanced statistic geeks and people who want to fire Randy Carlyle, I think this team has a high amount of potential. Continued success will show that the tough time that they were having before this recent winning streak was just a bump in the road.
I think that it had many people worried that their early success was a fluke. However, as long as the Leafs continue to be an effective and hardworking team on offense, I cannot see them finishing much lower than seventh in the Eastern Conference.