Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Rematch Against the Colorado Avalanche


Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Rematch Against the Colorado Avalanche

We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-1) @ Colorado Avalanche (3-6-5) – 9:00 p.m. on TSN4

The Maple Leafs defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in overtime on October 14 at the Air Canada Centre.

Leafs Injury Report

Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain

David Booth is out with broken foot

Joffrey Lupul is out with a broken hand

Projected Line Combinations (Leafs)

Avalanche Injury Report

Brad Stuart is out with a Hamstring Injury

Patrick Bordeleau is out recovering from back surgery

Jesse Winchester is out with a concussion

Projected Line Combinations (Avalanche):

Game Preview

After another corkscrew in a Maple Leafs season which has been quite the roller coaster ride thus far, the Leafs enter Colorado looking to get back in the win column.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

They were winners of three straight before Tuesday nights stinker in Arizona. The Leafs were out shot 10-3 in the first period and their poor start resulted in the Coyotes taking control of the game with a 3-0 lead. Despite this loss, the Leafs and Avs have been trending in opposite directions as of late.

Oct 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado has only managed to record three wins in fourteen games so far; an ugly start for a team that has high expectations after winning the division last season. After their first fourteen games last year, Patrick Roy’s squad already had a remarkable twelve wins. Perhaps the loss of  the steady play up the middle from Paul Stastny is proving to be quite costly.

The Avalanche have a 2-3-2 record when they play host at the Pepsi Center while the Leafs are 3-1-1 on the road, coming off their first road loss in regulation on Tuesday. Once again, the Buds find themselves with another great opportunity to trounce on a struggling opponent. They did it against the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets, winning those games with a combined score of 8-1. The Leafs need to capitalize on the shortcomings of the Avs and close out this mini two-game road trip with a big W. They also draw Reto Berra in the opposing goal as Semyon Varlamov gets a rest. The real challenge begins Saturday against the New York Rangers, followed by games against the Senators, Bruins, and Penguins. It seems as if there really aren’t many “freebies” up for grabs in the NHL anymore.

Having said that, of course the Colorado Avalanche are a talented hockey club and cannot be overlooked. They have only one three games, but something has to be said for how close they have come on several occasions. Seven of the eleven losses have been decided by a goal or less (two shootout losses, three overtime losses). One of those came in overtime against the Leafs after Joffrey Lupul and

Jan 21, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) defends the goal against Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Kessel helped them climb back in the third and win it in the extra frame. 

With a surplus of skill and a core made up of young offensive weapons, the Avalanche can be as unpredictable as their head coach, and the Leafs better bring it tonight.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel career vs COL: 7 GP- 6 goals- 1 assists- 7 PTS

Dion Phaneuf career vs COL: 39 GP- 6 goals- 5 assists- 21 PTS

Tyler Bozak career vs COL: 6 GP- 1 goal- 5 assist- 6 PTS

Mike Santorelli career vs COL: 6 GP- 2 goal- 1 assist- 3 PTS

Jonathan Bernier career vs COL: 2 GP (one  game started)- 0 wins-1 loss- 1.81 GAA- .939 sv%

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Duchene career vs TOR: 6 GP- 2 goal- 2 assists- 4 PTS

Jarome Iginla career vs TOR: 39 GP- 16 goals- 19 assists- 35 points

Nathan MacKinnon career vs TOR: 3 GP- 2 goals- 1 assist- 3 points

Keys to Victory for Toronto

– The issue in Tuesday’s loss for the Leafs was obvious: they didn’t show up ready to play in the first period. Maybe they enjoyed the Arizona weather a little too much before the game. Once again, proving that they are a team who struggles when they give up the lead. They are 1-5-1 when their opponent scores the games first goal, and still hold a perfect record when scoring first.

Nov 4, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle reacts during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

As Carlyle has reiterated all year long, they need to start playing their game for a full sixty minutes.

– The Leafs fired 40 shots on goal against the Avs in their last meeting, getting three of them by Varlamov. Whether it ends up benefiting them or not, they are set to face back-up netminder Reto Berra tonight as he makes his third start of the season. Berra has a 1-0-1 record with a respectable 2.07 goals against average and .932 save percentage. Despite Colorado’s struggles, their goaltending position is owned by Varlamov as Berra has just two starts even though he is carrying a quality stat line. It’s a good sign for Leafs forwards, they should look to dominate the shot charts again tonight.

– The power play looked good in the third period against Arizona as they were patient in moving the puck around and the defense were getting shots through to the net. Cody Franson’s goal was a result of throwing the puck on net and getting traffic in front. James Van Riemsdyk was a pest in front of the net and it created several scoring chances for his teammates. We don’t see this offensive net presence quite enough throughout the Leafs four lines and in my opinion, it should become a part of their identity.

Oct 18, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing David Clarkson (71) tries to screen Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

– These NHL goalies are going to stop almost everything that they can see coming their way and obviously the only way to counter that is to obstruct their vision. Planting a forward in front of the net, like so many teams do against the Leafs (Milan Lucic, Johan Franzen, Brendan Gallagher to name a few) can lead to goals off screens, deflections, rebounds, or draw penalties. We do occasionally see Clarkson or JVR hover around the net but I think that a more consistent and deliberate effort to do so will take this offense to the next level.

– The Avalanche have killed 29 straight penalties. They have killed 93% of their penalties this year which ranks first in the league. Their penalty kill has been exceptional yet they continue to lose games. The Leafs aren’t going to win this one on special teams so they need to stay out of the box. The Avs’ five on five goals for and against ratio is 0.72 which leaves them 25th in the league in that category. The Leafs should excel in five on five hockey in this game if they can improve their breakout from last game and decrease turnovers.

– Forwards need to come lower to help out in their own zone and win the battles along the sideboards to get the puck out. Getting stuck at the blue line was a constant problem against the Coyotes and it disrupted the flow of their offense. After the defense wins a tough battle in the corner and gets the puck up to the winger it is deflating to see that go to waste because of a lack of effort and execution.

– Carlyle has been more confident in playing his role players such as Peter Holland, allowing them to take on a larger role…how ironic! Holland in particular has stepped up as a reliable two hundred foot player. He played fifteen minutes against the Coyotes with two minutes of power play time and two and a half minutes on the penalty kill.

Nov 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Peter Holland (24) heads up ice against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Chicago 3-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

He was even on the ice when the Leafs were desperate for a tying goal with the empty net and extra attacker. It’s good to see him begin to establish himself as a two-way player and would be even better if we start to see some evidence on the score sheet. I think Holland has the potential to put up 35-40 points if he is given this kind of ice time consistently.

Slowly but surely the guys are beginning to mesh together. Kessel and company are scoring and we are watching the supporting cast of Clarkson, Komarov, Winnik and Holland recognize their roles on the team. The trial run to start the year is over and it is time for the Maple Leafs to decide that they are going to be a contender and to play with the heart that we saw in the playoffs two seasons ago. In the spirit of our first snowfall in Toronto, it would be great to see the Leafs walk all over the Avalanche tonight. 

What are your predictions for tonight’s game? Do you think Peter Holland has 40 point potential?

Lets us know your thought in the comments section below.

Follow me on Twitter for my three cents on what’s going on in the world of sports:@braydon93

Oct 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Colorado Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla (12) exchanges words with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports