Although only for a short period of time The Toronto Maple Leafs held the number one spot in the National Hockey League. For the first time in an exceptionally long time, Toronto was first place in the Eastern Conference, and the League due to a not so surprising successful California road trip. In previous years Toronto has been less successful on this trip, as many contributing factors come into play, considering it is an Eastern conference team playing three games in four nights. All excuses aside, Toronto continued to be impressive on the road gaining six points and doing it in dominate fashion, sweeping all three California teams for the first time since 1995.
The Maple Leafs were able to control the game early against the Kings, getting out to a 4-1 lead before the half way point in the second period. Albeit, L.A is in the midst of having one of their worst seasons to date, following a disappointing end to last years’ early play off exit and overall mediocre year. Fortunately, Toronto was able to build a large lead and easily coast to victory (5-1). This wasn’t the case against San Jose.
Toronto’s second game on the road and first of a back to back, came against a possible cup contender. With the addition of Erik Karlsson, San Jose looked like the obvious candidate to win the Stanley Cup, considering their already star studded line up, became even better. Unfortunately for San Jose, their game plan was shot early when Barclay Goodrow lined up against Nazem Kadri to take the opening draw. Obviously, San Jose was not over the altercation from last season, which saw Joe Thornton and Kadri fight at centre ice. The Maple Leafs ended taking advantage of this, scoring just seconds after the power play expired, inevitably sparking what ended up being a five goal opening period. Due to another unbelievable performance by Fredrik Andersen, who made 42 saves on route to his league leading 11th win of the season, Toronto was able to sneak past the Sharks scoring three unanswered goals leading to a 5-3 final.
Anaheim played host to Toronto for the second game of this back to back and third and final game of the road trip. Garret Sparks defended the net and was solid all night, making 38 saves on 39 shots, helping the Maple Leafs defeat the Ducks in overtime (2-1). Morgan Rielly scored his 9th goal of the season in overtime, which ties his career high. (In 61 less games).
Toronto is playing some of their best hockey to date, winning hard fought games and showing some championship winning tendencies along the way. With great goaltending and the continued good play from their defence, Toronto is on their way to an extremely successful year.
Oh, let’s not forget they are doing this without Nylander and Matthews.
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