Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (36) celebrates with Dion Phaneuf (3) and Carter Ashton (37) after scoring a second period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes during an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Streaking Leafs think they can ‘play to a higher level’


With a 4-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won five straight games for the first time in almost seven years.

So as good as they’ve been recently, it’s not hard to find a reminder of just how much this franchise has struggled during the salary cap era. It also highlights their need to need to build off of their recent success rather than just celebrate it.

“We feel that this group can continue to grow and play to a higher level,” said coach Randy Carlyle, according to Sportsnet. “It’s enough talking about it; it’s time that action speaks louder than words and we’ve got to continue to grow this group to be a playoff hockey club.

“We believe that we’ve got more.”

Their goaltending and Jonathan Bernier in particular will be a major factor in determining whether or not the Maple Leafs have what it takes to be more than mediocre. He’s been a key component of their recent winning streak by stopping at least 30 shots in each of his last five games. Phil Kessel has also played a key role in the Maple Leafs’ recent success, but the bigger question is if the Maple Leafs can regularly step up on nights that Kessel is contained.

If nothing else, they now have a five-point cushion in the battle for a Wild Card spot. That’s a huge swing when you factor in that they were two points shy just before their winning streak began.

Dropping like flies: Johnson, Killorn hurt in Bolts’ exhibition

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
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You probably know the drill: injury updates are murky in the NHL basically from the moment a puck drops.

We’ll learn more once the 2015-16 season begins, but at the moment, Saturday might have served as a costly night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn went down with injuries stemming from a 3-2 pre-season win against the Florida Panthers.

“Guys were dropping like flies,” Steven Stamkos told the Tamba Bay Times.

These could be minor situations – just about any ailment will sideline a key asset this time of year – yet one cannot help but wonder if the Lightning might limp into this campaign.

Nikita Kucherov is dealing with his own issues, so that means at least minor issues for one half of the Bolts’ top six forwards.

It’s believed that more will be known about these banged-up Bolts sometime on Sunday.

Raffi Torres gets match penalty for being Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres

With knee issues still limiting him, Raffi Torres isn’t as mobile as he once was. Apparently he still moves well enough to leave the usual path of destruction.

It’s the pre-season, so it’s unclear if we’ll get a good look at the check, but Torres received a match penalty for his hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.

Most accounts were pretty critical of the San Jose Sharks’ chief troublemaker:

It’s too early to tell if Silfverberg is injured. If he is, that’s a significant loss for the Ducks, as he really showed signs of fulfilling his promise (especially during the 2015 playoffs).

As far as Torres goes, he’s hoping to play in the Sharks’ season-opener. Wherever he ends up, he’ll certainly make plenty of enemies on the ice.

Whether it was because of that hit or just the general distaste shared by those sides, it sounds like tonight’s Sharks – Ducks exhibition is getting ugly, in general:

This post will be updated if video of the hit becomes available, and also if we get a better idea of Silfverberg’s condition.

Update: All that’s been announced about Silfverberg is that he’s under evaluation and will not return.