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Keys To The Game: Leafs vs. Coyotes

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are in Arizona tonight to take on the Coyotes as part of a two game road trip. Here are three keys necessary for Toronto to grab their fourth consecutive victory.

Score first

Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks marked the first time the Maple Leafs won a game this season, without Phil Kessel finding the back of the net. As goes with that stat, the Leafs find themselves 5-0-0 when scoring the first goal of the hockey game. Toronto is one of four NHL franchises with a perfect record when getting the game’s opening goal. So, if Kessel were to score early, things would be looking pretty good.

Penalty Kill Improvement a MUST

The Coyotes are at the bottom of the NHL’s Western Conference standings with just four victories out of 11 games. In those wins, Phoenix has scored seven out of the team’s total of 11 power-play goals. The Leafs’ penalty kill has struggled as of late. Despite coming up with two points on Saturday, the Leafs had an awful special teams performance, giving up two goals while shorthanded and not scoring when they had the advantage. If the Leafs’ kill their penalties, the mission of grabbing two points steadily improves.

Watch out for Keith Yandle

He’s been an unlikely dynamo on Arizona’s power-play. As a defenceman, he leads the entire team in points with 10. Nine of those points have come with the man advantage. Yandle’s timing has improved this season, getting praise of those around him for his ability to anticipate the opposition’s next move. He is the team leader in average ice-time playing north of 26 minutes. If the Leafs shut down Yandle, it’s two points in their favour.

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The Maple Leafs have yet to lose in regulation on the road this year (3-0-1). They have found their scoring touch and square off against a team that holds the worst goals against average (3.82) in the league. If Toronto play the way they have over the past three games, they will find success in the desert.

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