A little more than a half-day after an impressive 1- 0 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils, the Maple Leafs were a confident group as they assembled for practice Friday and while the phenomenal performance of goaltender Frederik Andersen is one of a few key reasons for Toronto's success and their five-game win streak, there are other factors at play.
For one thing, the Leafs players in front of Andersen are playing a better game on the defensive end and as head coach Mike Babcock said, they're still a ways away from being at their collective peak.
"I think we've still given up shots, but we've given up way less high-quality scoring chances, especially early," Babcock said Friday. "So that's been positive…In saying all that, though, we've got a long way to go. We're not playing at the top of our game; we'd like to play better, and spend more time in the O zone, break out more efficiently."
The Leafs were without the services of centre Auston Matthews for the fourth consecutive game in Thursday's victory over New Jersey, but Toronto continued to improve its structure in its own zone, and they were opportunistic on offence when chances presented themselves. Winger William Nylander scored the only goal of the night when he beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider with 2.2 seconds left in overtime, but the Buds had better offensive opportunities throughout the game and only a strong showing by Schneider stopped Toronto from winning in regulation.