It’s been a long time since the Toronto Maple Leafs have won six straight hockey games. How long, you ask?
Leafs win six straight for the first time since the 05-06 season.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 22, 2014
The Leafs went into the Mile High City last night and cruised to a surprisingly comfortable 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche, their sixth straight. The Leafs are now tied with the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division.
This game had “scheduled loss” written all over it. The Leafs played the night before in Phoenix; the Avs were well rested; the Avs have a great home record; the Avs have won eight of their last 10; the Avs happen to play in a city that’s really high above sea-level with thin air that players who play in other cities aren’t used to donchaknow.
All of those narratives are perfectly valid and applicable. I even mentioned a few in the preview. There’s only one problem with these narratives:
THEY DIDN’T HAVE AN ANSWER FOR JAMES FREAKIN’ REIMER.
37 times the Colorado Avalanche players pelted James Reimer with a hockey puck; 35 times James Reimer kept that same hockey puck out of the net. Many of these weren’t just your garden-variety “oh hey the puck hit me right in the chest ain’t that swell?” kinds of saves, but serious, doing-the-splits-while-balancing-a-spinning-plate-on-my-head kinds of saves.
Just take a moment and have a look for yourself:
And he probably would’ve had a shutout too, if it weren’t for the two goals by that meddlesome kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
No, the other one.
Yup, that’s him.
The Avalanche dominated for most of the first period, as the Leafs did their trademark dance around their own zone chasing the puck for long stretches. Then, Dion Phaneuf’s long stretch pass just missed a streaking Phil Kessel at the Avs’ blue line. Luckily for the Leafs, the puck hit the end-boards and bounced right in front of the net back to Kessel, who sniped a low shot far side on Semyon Varlamov.
The Leafs continued their strong play with the man-advantage as Cody Franson’s point shot was deflected in front by James van Riemsdyk. Nazem Kadri scored on a wrist shot not even three minutes into the second period, which chased the Russian Olympic team member Varlamov out of the net and former Leaf Jean-Sebastien Giguere replaced him.
That didn’t stop the bleeding though, as about two-and-a-half minutes later Kessel scored his second of the game and 26th of the season. It was the kind of goal that really sucks the life out of a team. The Avs had, by all accounts, played well, but a combination of the awesomeness of Reimer and the futility of their own netminding sunk them.
Wunderkind Nathan MacKinnon scored a couple to make this thing look respectable and Jay McClement added an empty-netter. The Leafs will now look for seven straight as they travel to Texas for a date with the Dallas Stars on Thursday.