Canucks-Maple Leafs Preview
Though it still hasn't been easy, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to make progress.
They can extend their point streak to five games with a third consecutive victory Saturday night against the slumping Vancouver Canucks.
After earning four points in October, Toronto (4-8-4) is 3-1-2 this month. Two nights after rallying for a pair of third-period goals to win 3-2 at Dallas, the Maple Leafs got a tying score from Tyler Bozak early in the third and the lone shootout goal from Peter Holland in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Nashville.
In the midst of its longest point streak since a six-game winning stretch Dec. 6-16, Toronto has scored seven non-shootout goals in the last four but allowed the same number. More importantly, they've won consecutive games for the first time this season.
"Whatever it takes," said Bozak, who has five points in the last six games. "We're learning how to win games."
Coach Mike Babcock continues to be pleased with the effort, and sees the confidence growing within his club.
"When you have success, you feel you've earned it and you feel better about yourself," he said. "Obviously we're a work in progress and it's going to take us some time but we feel we're getting better."
Though the Maple Leafs are among the NHL's lowest-scoring teams at 2.06 goals per game, they've been highly competitive in the last four thanks to James Reimer's 1.67 goals-against average over that span. Reimer could remain in net even though Jonathan Bernier appears recovered from a lower-body injury and had a 1.50 GAA while winning Toronto's last two at home against Vancouver.
"We have some great pieces and we work hard every night," Holland said. "We just need to continue building off the good things were doing."
Reimer is 0-2-0 with a 5.26 GAA against Vancouver, but both games came on the road with the most recent in November 2013.
Toronto has converted 26.3 percent of its power-play chances and killed 16 of 18 penalties this month.
That might not bode well for Vancouver (7-5-5), which is 1 for 19 with man advantage in six November games and has allowed opponents to make good on 7 of 17 (41.2 percent) of their opportunities while losing four of the last five.
The penalty-kill appears to be the most concerning for the Canucks, who killed 29 of 32 in the first 12 games. Opponents are 4 for 7 on the power play in the last two.
"I think guys are trying maybe a little too hard," coach Willie Desjardins told the NHL's official website after the Canucks fell to 1-2-1 on a season-high seven-game trip with Thursday's 3-2 loss at Ottawa.
"We're trying so hard to get the kill, maybe we're overplaying a little bit," he added. "All the teams got a pretty good power play and our penalty-killing's been great for us. It hasn't been as good this trip, but it's been great all year."
Vancouver showed some offensive life in Tuesday's 5-3 win at Columbus, but only managed the two goals on 35 shots against the Senators.
"We know we have to be better," forward Henrik Sedin said. "I still feel that right now we have the group that can score. We're setting up, we're winning faceoffs, it's just that last play where we can't put the puck in the net."
Sedin has three goals and six assists in the last eight games. His brother Daniel has 10 points in the last nine but none in two of the last three.