Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 7-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Monday at Pepsi Center:
Leo Komarov’s dream season continues.
Prior to the game, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said Komarov has been Toronto’s most competitive player thus far this season. A few hours later, the veteran winger showed why: first, he scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season to tie the contest at a goal apiece; then, some four minutes later, he set up teammate Joffrey Lupul’s go-ahead marker with a stunning, no-look, between-the-legs pass; and finally, he gave the Buds a 3-2 advantage with his 15th of the year. Just about everything is going Komarov’s way, and his high value to the Buds is undeniable.
Power play resurgence.
For weeks now, the Leafs’ play with the man advantage has not been at its best, but all that changed Monday when Toronto scored its first three goals of the night on the power play. The Buds have had a good deal of power play success against the Avs this season – in their previous meeting Nov. 17 at Air Canada Centre, the Leafs went 4-for-5 on the PP.
Jake Gardiner is quietly thriving.
Gardiner assisted on each of Toronto’s first three goals Monday and by the final buzzer, he’d amassed four assists for the first time in his career. Now in his fifth NHL season, the 25-year-old blueliner has eight assists and 10 points in 29 games this year, is one of the Buds’ best possession players and his steady play at both ends doesn’t go unappreciated by the organization.
There’s just something about Denver that suits Tyler Bozak very well.
Bozak attended university in Denver, and he clearly felt at home in the mountain air, scoring the game-winning goal 49 seconds into the third period, adding his second of the night and seventh of the season some six minutes later, and recording his second career NHL hat trick by firing the puck into an empty Avs net with 3:40 left in regulation time. The 29-year-old pivot now has eight goals and 22 points in 28 games, and has eight points in his past six games.
Another win means more confidence for Jonathan Bernier.
The Leafs goalie didn’t register his first win of the season until Saturday’s 5-0 victory over the L.A. Kings, but his next ‘W’ came just 48 hours later. He wasn’t perfect Monday, allowing four goals on 28 Avs shots, but Bernier is now on a winning streak and head coach Mike Babcock is likely to keep him between the pipes Tuesday for Toronto’s road tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. It’s next to impossible for goalies to build their confidence levels when they’re not playing, and Bernier working his way back into peak form – and winning games while he’s doing so – represents making the most of a non-ideal situation.