Road-savvy Maple Leafs take current run to Arizona
Based on results this season, home ice does not figure to be an advantage Saturday when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Arizona Coyotes.
The Maple Leafs have played well on the road this season (19-7-2) and have started their current six-game trip with a 3-1-0 record, including a 6-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, continued their struggles at home (10-14-3) after losing 4-0 to the red-hot St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
"Obviously it's not good enough," Coyotes defenseman and team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. "We've got to win our games at home, and we haven't been able to do that. It's frustrating, and especially around this time of year. Every game is so important right now and especially our homestands. It's huge for us, so we've got to find a way to win the home games."
The Coyotes have the fewest goals scored (70) and points earned (23) in the NHL on home ice this season. Arizona's power play has been worse at home (16.1 percent) than on the road (19.4 percent).
The Coyotes do have a road victory against the Maple Leafs, a 4-2 decision on Jan. 20. And they also have a road victory this week against the Golden Knights, earning a 5-2 decision on Tuesday. Yet, they came out flat for the home game Thursday.
"Whether it's as a team or as an individual, you're looking for your strongest effort," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. "Some guys worked hard, but I thought some guys were sluggish (Thursday). The first two goals were miscues we can't have against (St. Louis)."
The Coyotes are still in position to make a run for the playoffs because they play better away from home.
"We're three or four games under .500 (at home) and three or four games above .500 on the road," Tocchet said. "It's disappointing. I honestly don't know why. We have played some good games here, but not enough.
"If you want to make the playoffs, you've got to have a really good home record."
The Maple Leafs' victory in Las Vegas on Thursday featured two goals from Auston Matthews, the first of which was the 100th of his career in his 187th game.
Only two players in franchise history have reached 100 goals quicker than the Scottsdale, Ariz., native Matthews: Reg Noble (112 games played) and Charlie Conacher (162).
"I just think this last three games has been (Matthews) best three games in a long time," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "He's really skating and the more he skates, the more he has the puck and it goes in. Those things happen during the year where it comes and goes, but I thought he was dominant the last three games for us, really dominant."
The Maple Leafs' power play, which has struggled since December, had its second consecutive productive game Thursday with two goals after notching three on Tuesday.
One of the power-play goals Thursday was scored by Andreas Johnsson, who has five goals and four assists in the past six games. He left the game, however, with a leg injury in the second period and did not return.
"Fortunately, it is nothing too serious," Matthews told the Toronto Sun. "Hopefully, he gets back out there soon."
If Johnsson does miss time because of the injury, it will allow the return of Tyler Ennis, who was activated from the injured list this week after missing 18 games with a broken ankle.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 15, 2019