From six feet under to winning six straight. Surely a death-defying act in the NHL playoff race by the Maple Leafs, if you really thought the season was going to be a write-off because of a losing streak at the halfway point of an 82-game schedule. Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said his team simply had to stop the meetings — and put some real meat in their games. “Enough talking about it, it’s time for action,” Carlyle said the night before in Phoenix. “That speaks louder than words. We have to continue to grow this group to challenge to be a playoff team. That was the statement we made before and we’ll continue to do it. We believe they’ve got more and they believe they have more.” And while some of those six-pack of victories came down to Jonathan Bernier’s goaltending, the rest of the team is now catching the wave. In an exclamation point to their longest streak since Christmas of 2005, the Leafs blocked the surging Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Tuesday, earning back-to-back wins in the West with Bernier watching James Reimer get the kudos for a change. “It could have been an excuse game,” Reimer said, earning his first regulation win on the road since Oct. 29. “Coming in here, back to back, with the high altitude, with your lungs burning. But we came out flying and kept with it.” The Leafs can bask in some giant-killer wins, Boston, Montreal and now the Avs, the second hottest team in the league since New Year’s Eve. “We have a confidence in our room now, we feel good about ourselves,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “But we know this trip will get tougher as it goes along (to Dallas on Thursday and Winnipeg on Saturday).” The Leafs did not expect to arrive in Texas until early Wednesday morning and were already planning a day off to “kick back and chill out” in Carlyle’s words. Watching them jump to a 4-0 lead before a shocked crowd at the Pepsi Center, where Patrick Roy’s team and goalie Semyon Varlamov have been near invincible, the change in Leafs fortunes has been remarkable. Though still suspect defensively, the first line continues to pour it on, with six points on Tuesday by Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. Kessel has 14 points in the past seven games and with what looked like a strong push from upper management, came out to meet the media.
Maple Leafs knock off Avalanche to win sixth in a row
Toronto Sun | Jan 22