The Toronto Maple Leafs, a much improved team in November, came into this game off a loss to the Rangers, while the Avs were riding a hot streak with wins over the Bruins and Habs, including a 6-1 thumping of Montreal (thanks, guys!). In the end, however, the Leafs' special teams led them to a lopsided 5-1 win over Colorado.
The good guys didn't have the greatest game at 5v5 against the league's worst possession team. In fact, they played downright atrocious in the first period. But the top PP unit of Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, and P.A. Parenteau had a big night as the Leafs' power play went 4-for-5. A Leo Komarov shorthanded goal on the first penalty of the game was the fifth marker for the team, as the special teams were responsible for 100% of the offense tonight.
The Leafs got off to a rather slow start, as the Iginla line hemmed in the Leafs' second line. Byron Froese, who is on the third line for reasons unknown to us all, took a penalty early, and it appeared that tonight's game would pick up where it left off. Fortunately, Leo Komarov managed to ring a shot off the post and in for the shorthanded goal. 1-0 Leafs.
The Buds seemed to gain some confidence from that goal, as they easily killed the penalty, and managed to start pushing the puck the other way. The fourth line looked good early, particularly Brad Boyes, who probably shouldn't have been scratched to begin with.
The first period went by as a generally low-event, low-chance period; Parenteau had a decent one stopped by Reto Berra, but that was it for the Leafs. But the Leafs would get a power play opportunity late. This time, Parenteau got the puck all alone in front of the net and would not be denied. 2-0 Leafs.
The even-strength numbers, however, are not flattering to the Leafs. They spent much of the latter half of the period getting stuck in their own zone. Overall, Colorado out-attempted the Leafs 11-2 at evens in the second half of the first. Not good.
The Leafs started the second with better jump, as JVR got a decent chance on a break. It took almost seven minutes to register a shot, but their possession was much improved and they got more pressure on the attack. They could've had more shots if somebody called the extremely clear Carl Soderberg high stick on Froese- who then was called for a penalty on Soderberg later- but hey, I'm not the official. You do you.
The Leafs would, however, get a power play later on a Blake Comeau interference call, and the special teams would do it again. Bozak would take a spinning pass from Boyes, and get it past Berra. 3-0 Leafs.
A tense moment came 12 minutes into the second, when a collision with James Reimer stuck his leg against the post. It didn't help when, four seconds later, an Erik Johnson point shot gets past him to make it 3-1. Luckily, it seemed to be more that it was a blind shot for Reimer than any problem with the leg.
The second period was much better possession-wise, as the Leafs out-attempted the Avs 22-15 at evens. A much better showing against the worst possession team in the league.
Leafs started a bit chippier in the third period. They got a couple decent scoring chances (including- stop me if you've heard this before- Nazem Kadri being denied again). That said, they looked more like a team trying to protect a two-goal lead for much of the period.
Once again, special teams got the job done again. After killing a penalty, Nazem Kadri performed his usual artistry to get a man advantage. On the ensuing power play, Peter Holland fools Berra and gets the pass to Parenteau, who scores his second of the night to give the Leafs the 4-1 lead. An Andreas Martinsen penalty later in the game saw- wait for it- yet another power play goal. James van Riemsdyk gets the feed from Matt Hunwick. 5-1 Leafs, which is your final score of the game.
-Too many times this season we've seen the Leafs dominate possession, get scored on, and lose their confidence and, with it, their play. Tonight we saw the opposite. Looked a lot better after getting the 1-0 goal.
-Babcock did something different tonight, playing the Kadri line against Colorado's top line of Mikhail Grigorenko, Nathan MacKinnon, and Matt Duchene. The Avs aren't a particularly deep team, and much of their talent is concentrated on that top line and pairing, so this is a good idea. You don't exactly want Froese playing against these guys.
-TSN mentioned that Colorado is a high-event team, and it is clear to see why. They look like a team that likes to generate scoring chances off the rush. Their top line reminds me of the Kessel-era Leafs in the ability of their speed to turn a miscue into a rush scoring chance.
-Erik Johnson in particular impressed me as a very mobile defender who is great at handling the puck.
-Nazem Kadri with two amazing scoring chances and misses them both. This is indeed quite frustrating.
-Byron Froese continues to be useless, with two penalties and a team-low in possession. There are many better available options both in the pressbox and on the Marlies. Why he's still here eludes me.
-P.A. Parenteau with two power play goals, making three in his last three games, and four total goals in his last five. RAISE THAT TRADE VALUE!
The Leafs have a couple days off before resuming action Friday. They'll be on the road this weekend, headed to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes Friday, then Boston to play the Bruins on Saturday.