Avalanche-Maple Leafs Preview
The Colorado Avalanche are on a win streak thanks to strong goaltending, while the Toronto Maple Leafs' longest run of the season came to an end in part because of shaky play in net.
Colorado seeks its fourth straight victory when it visits Toronto on Tuesday night.
The Avalanche (7-9-1) have won the first three of their season-high seven-game trip, with Reto Berra surrendering three total goals while starting each game. Colorado had been 25th in the NHL with 3.00 goals allowed per game prior to the trip.
Semyon Varlamov is on injured reserve with a groin injury. He's struggled with a 3.26 goals-against average in 10 starts, though, so his absence has been a blessing in disguise, allowing Berra to shine. Berra's 1.50 GAA leads the league and he made 39 saves in Saturday's 6-1 win over Atlantic Division-leading Montreal.
Colorado has also been more productive offensively, scoring 13 goals in the last three games after totaling 11 in its first six road contests. Nathan MacKinnon pushed his team-leading point total to 19 with two goals and one assist against the Canadiens, while Matt Duchene and Mikhail Grigorenko each had a goal and two assists.
Grigorenko was filling in on the top line for Gabriel Landeskog, who served the first of his two-game suspension for an illegal check in Thursday's win over Boston.
"Three straight for us is huge," MacKinnon said. "I don't know about (calling it) a measuring stick.
"I don't think we're in the elite category in the league yet. We want to earn that. But whether they had a good night or not, we played very well. We stuck to our system and Reto Berra played great."
Duchene has four goals and four assists to start the trip, and seven goals and five assists in his last seven games overall after opening with two points in his first 10.
"I'm excited," said Duchene, a native of Dysart et al, Ontario. "Hopefully it continues (in Toronto on Tuesday). ... I have a lot of friends and family coming, so it'd be great to have a big night there, and most importantly get another win."
The Maple Leafs (5-9-4) had also won three in a row before losing 4-3 to the New York Rangers on Sunday. Jonathan Bernier surrendered a rebound that set up Mats Zuccarello's winner with 58.3 seconds left, and said he "cost us two points."
Bernier has lost all eight of his starts while posting a 3.17 GAA.
"We win as a team and lose as a team," coach Mike Babcock said. "Maybe (Bernier is) trying too hard."
James Reimer will get the nod Tuesday. He has won three straight starts and owns a 2.30 GAA this season.
Toronto fell to 2-3-4 in one-goal games. The Avalanche have also struggled in those contests, going 2-6-1.
Colorado had won four straight trips to Toronto before losing 3-2 in overtime Oct. 14, 2014.
A fourth straight road win for the Avalanche would match last season's best such streak from Feb. 27-March 19.