GDT: Leafs vs Avalanche (7pm, Sportsnet)

Mike Komisarek

Mike KomisarekTwo of the youngest teams in the NHL are set to face-off against each other tonight for Toronto’s 2nd last game at home to start the season. Toronto had easily the worst schedule of all the teams: two games, a 7 day break in between and all 5 games to start the season are at home. Very strange to say the least. Road trips are important—and especially on young teams—for bonding and getting away from the media and distractions of playing at home. Travelling planes, trains and automobiles, rooming together, eating together all helps expedite the gelling process.

Colorado are certainly red-hot, as are the Leafs. After getting shutout by the the Detroit Red Wings 3-0, Colorado have been on a small tear to start the season, winning their last 4 games. Their young, talented forwards, lead by Matt Duchene, have started to blossom as a young team and GM Greg Sherman has done a marvelous job of making moves for all the right positions. Semyon Varlamov was the biggest off-season acquisition for the Avalanche and they paid a lofty price for him—a 1st and a 2nd round pick for an unproven goalie. Having said that, he has oodles of natural talent and this could work out wonderfully for them. Adding former Maple Leaf, J.S. Giguere (who gets the start against the buds) as mentor, goalie coach and backup goalie, was a savvy move by Avalanche GM, Greg Sherman. While their forwards look solid, their defence is thin on talent, but they have started to address that with last season acquisition then St. Louis Blue and former 1st overall pick stud defenceman, Erik Johnson. They sent young power forward Chris Stewart back the other way in exchange for what they think will be a franchise defenceman.

Phil Kessel is the best player in the NHL… at least for the past week he was. Any small victory like that is something that we can take solace in and hopefully this only helps build his and the team’s confidence. Toronto needs to get it’s 1st line 2nd line clicking… and right now. They don’t look anywhere near as dangerous as they did last season when they were effectively operating as our first line. Phil Kessel has been a force and he single handedly won the game for Toronto against Calgary on Saturday and Ottawa the previous game. Toronto’s 2nd and 3rd lines better start to deliver on the promise of chemistry that was carried over from last season and for the 3rd line, seen in training camp and pre-season. Kessel is not going to score at a the rate he is putting them in right now, so secondary scoring needs to be the theme.

Some end-of-day links for ya’ll.