The Toronto Maple Leafs have not lost since Dec. 9, but the stat is somewhat misleading.
Toronto has won only four in a row since then thanks to a COVID-19 pause that had nine of its games postponed.
The Maple Leafs are getting back to a more normal schedule, beginning Saturday night at the surging Colorado Avalanche.
Toronto isn’t the only team with games to make up this season. Colorado had seven games postponed before returning to the ice last Sunday, and neither team has seemed bothered by the long layoffs.
The Maple Leafs beat Ottawa 6-0 on Jan. 1 after a three-week break and four days later topped Edmonton 4-2. Toronto was scheduled to play at Montreal on Thursday night but that game was also postponed.
Saturday’s contest starts a stretch of eight of nine games on the road for the Maple Leafs, barring postponements, with the first four against Western Conference teams. They will start the trip without Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall, who were placed in COVID-19 protocols on Friday.
“Mitch was positive (Thursday), and Pierre, not sure whether his (positive result) was today or yesterday,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said Friday. “I think both have minor symptoms, I would say at this point, from what I have been told.”
The Maple Leafs assigned forwards Brett Seney and Joey Anderson to the taxi squad with Marner and Engvall out.
Toronto also placed Nick Ritchie on waivers Thursday, and if he clears he could also be assigned to the taxi squad.
Beginning a road trip against the Avalanche is challenging. Colorado has won 10 straight home games, is nearly at full health and is 16-3-1 since Nov. 7. The top line, considered one of the best in the NHL, is clicking, as the 7-1 win over Winnipeg on Thursday night showed.
Gabriel Landeskog had a hat trick, Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists and Nathan MacKinnon had five points in the win.
One of MacKinnon’s points was a goal, just his fourth of the season, but his lack of goals hasn’t worried coach Jared Bednar.
“I think he’s been a little bit snakebit with his shooting,” Bednar said. “Recently we’ve had some conversations about him making sure he continues to take his shots when he gets in scoring areas if he feels like that’s the play, that’s his read.
“He’s putting his linemates in some real good scoring areas with his passes and they’ve been capitalizing, so he’s got more assists and less goals this year.”
The trio is only part of the reason the Avalanche have won eight of their last nine, including three straight since their COVID-19 pause. Colorado is getting secondary scoring from its other lines and leads the NHL in goals by defensemen with 32.
Nazem Kadri, who is on the second line with Andre Burakovsky and currently Logan O’Connor, leads the team with 42 points and Cale Makar leads the league in goals by a defenseman with 14.
The Avalanche are also starting to lock in defensively.
“When we play the right way and take care of our end first, for us that’s the recipe to win hockey games, making sure we take care of the defensive side of things first,” Landeskog said.
–Field Level Media