The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their recent winning streak while in the desert of Arizona, defeating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2. The game was up and down with Toronto dominating over portions, and at times reverting back to letting the game come to them.
Phoenix, under the direction of Dave Tippett, have been largely a neutral zone trap team, but this season they look nothing like they have since the former Dallas Stars bench boss took over. The Leafs have now extended their longest win streak of the season to five games.
The Leafs should build on some of the positives that have appeared while extending their win streak. The defense appears to be more engaged both in the defensive zone and contributing offensively. Far too often the Maple Leafs have spent long stretches in their own end of the ice because they simply collapse to the center and refuse to engage in any board play. Phil Kessel and the top line also continue to roll, which will be vital for the team to continue to make up ground on the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.
If nothing else, tonight’s win was vital as Colorado will be waiting for the Leafs to arrive tomorrow. As if it isn’t tough enough to play in the elevation, doing so against a rested squad for the fourth game in six nights should only add to the challenge.
Highlights from the game:
- Not sure what the temperature was in Phoenix, but that ice looked about as soft as butter. The puck on multiple occasions stopped dead in the oddest spots, creating a bit of a muddy game early on.
- For the life of me, I have no idea how Carl Gunnarsson ended up in front of Mike Smith to score the third goal of the game. Of all the things he does well, and there are many, getting a goal in the dirty part of the ice was the last thing anybody expected. The guy is so quiet defensively most nights, you forget that he is by default the number-two defenseman on the team. Good to see him get noticed for the right reasons tonight.
- The Leafs’ power play is still hot, but man does Cody Franson create some frightening situations while on the first unit. For all of his offensive gifts, he looks like he is skating in quicksand and seldom ever wins a foot race.
- For all the talk and hype of Mike Smith and his ability to move the puck for the breakout, he at times looks like he does as much harm as good. About half of his breakout passes either ended up on a Leafs’ stick, and a couple were nearly placed right in his own net.
- The Leafs’ penalty killing has no aggression or life whatsoever. The ones they are killing at this point have more to do with goaltending and luck than any actual skill.
- Tonight’s Maddie’s Mark player of the game is a guy that scores so infrequently, when he does, you can’t help but notice. Carl Gunnarsson scored a beauty of a goal from three feet away from the net, making it one of his “Best Days Ever”. For more information on how you can provide many more “Best Days Ever” for families, visit www.maddiesmark.org.