Young guns from 2015 draft set to do battle
Taken six picks apart in 2015, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen (No. 10) and Toronto’s Mitch Marner (No. 4) are two top-notch pieces of a high-end draft that included a couple of guys named Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Marner and Rantanen each could take Monday’s game between the Avalanche (20-17-8) and the Leafs (28-14-2) under control and be the deciding factor.
Rantanen has 190 points in 210 career games while Marner has 188 in 203. Each is electrifying and worth the price printed on any ticket. Here are five things to watch for when the two tangle Monday at Scotiabank Arena:
1. Be determined
Leafs coach Mike Babcock scoffed at the idea the Avalanche might be more desperate, considering they’ve lost nine of 10. Toronto has won just twice in its past six games. Colorado is in a tight wild card race in the West, while the Leafs have Boston nipping at their heels for second in the Atlantic Division.
2. No rust here?
Frederik Andersen has been a spectator since Dec. 22, but has practised a handful of times in coming back from a groin injury. The Leafs goaltender didn’t think he would have much catching up to do, never mind he’ll also have to get past a brief illness. “I think once I get my energy back from this flu, I’m sure I will feel really refreshed and so hopefully that is something that’s going to benefit us,” Andersen said. Against Colorado in his career, Andersen is 2-2-0 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average.
3. Stop the top
Colorado’s No. 1 line of Nathan MacKinnon between Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen is among the most dangerous in hockey, with Rantanen and MacKinnon in the top five in NHL scoring through Saturday. The Avs aren’t deep, so if they contain the big men, the Leafs give themselves a better shot.
4. Road consideration
Colorado has been a prolific club on the road, scoring 86 goals in 25 games — the most in the NHL before games on Sunday. Colorado also has given up 86 on the road, and though the Leafs have little interest in getting in a track meet, they have the horses to keep pace. The Leafs have scored 74 goals and given up 59 in 23 home games.
5. Penalty peeves
Colorado arrives with the dubious distinction of being short-handed 95 times on the road, easily the most in the NHL. Toronto has had just 55 power plays at home, one more than the Dallas Stars, who have the fewest.