By: Spencer Lussier
The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped their four-game losing skid against the Ottawa Senators, and have a chance to make it two in a row as Nathan MacKinnon leads the Colorado Avalanche into the ACC tonight.
Toronto is coming off one of their best games in 2018, turning the table on their recent trend of third period blow ups. Down 3-1 at the start of the third, the Leafs were the ones to storm back and complete the comeback. It was also the first time since December 28th that the Leafs scored more than three goals in regulation, which showed the offence might be heating up once again. Mike Babcock continued to shuffle his lines during the game on Saturday, and I expect it to continue until the Leafs get on a winning streak. The Leafs need to make sure that their offence comes to play on five-on-five to have any success tonight, as the Avalanche owns the second best penalty killing units in the league. This will be the final meeting between these teams this season as Colorado looks for the season sweep, after a 4-3 win in overtime against the Leafs on December 29th.
If it wasn’t for Vegas, Colorado would be the surprise in the NHL. After having one of the worst seasons in modern day history last year, Colorado has turned their season around this year thanks in large part to the run they are on now, winning their last nine games. A lot of credit for the Avalanche success this season falls on Nathan MacKinnon, who has single handily brought this team to success. MacKinnon currently is two points back of Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in points with 59 points in 45 games played. What is arguably more impressive is what he has been doing during their current nine game winning streak, as he has 19 points of his 59 points in his last nine games. Certainly, not what Toronto fans wants to be facing during this tense part of the season. Also, worth noting that Jonathan Bernier will be forcing his former club tonight. He has been a big part in the Avs nine game winning streak, earning the victory in eight of nine games and failing to allow more than three goals during this run.
Player to watch out for on Colorado: Mikko Rantanen
Obviously, it will be Nathan MacKinnon who is hitting his number one overall potential this season. However, another player to watch out for on Colorado is Mikko Rantanen. The 21-year-old winger is already putting up career highs in almost every offensive statistical category. Rantanen was also a top 10 pick in the 2015 draft is hitting his stride in his second year in the NHL. It helps that he is playing alongside MacKinnon, but Rantanen has 46 points in 45 games this season and has five points in his last two games. He is a big winger, listed at 6’4 and plays to his size well making it hard to take the puck away from him. He can make skilled offensive plays with his hands and vision while also being able to bury his chances with his quick release. Both MacKinnon and Rantanen has seemed to excel playing together and look like a dangerous duo for years to come.
Watchability Scale: 8/10
I am really excited for this game. Matthews vs MacKinnon will be fun to see them trade chances in the offensive zone. Both goaltenders are playing well heading into this game. The Leafs have some momentum coming into this one with a win in last game, but it will be challenging once again tonight against a team who had the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. Like I said, I am excited to watch tonight as both teams have the make-up to put on a spectacle. 8/10 on the scale for this game tonight.