Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/12/14
Now in the midst of the Olympic break, the National Hockey League has shut down for two weeks as players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in  Sochi, Russia. The Toronto Maple Leafs ended the first half of the season with a bang, winning 4-1 over Tampa Bay and notching a 3-1 victory over Vancouver. The Leafs, however, stumbled out of the gate at the start of the 2013-14 season. It started in the preseason when David Clarkson was suspended for a month for a stick swinging incident in a game  against the Buffalo Sabres.  Clarkson didn’t start the regular season until October 25. Shortly after Clarkson came back into the Leafs’ lineup, another key player went down to injury. Dave Bolland, an unrestricted free agent who the Leafs signed during the off-season, severed a tendon in his left ankle by colliding with an opponent’s skate during a game.  Bolland’s status is unclear at this time.  There’s also a rumor circling around that Bolland is going to be traded at the trade deadline. Things got worst for the Leafs just before Christmas.  The team had trouble winning games and were on downward spiral. It wasn’t until Toronto defeated Detroit in a shoot out at the Winter Classic that the Leafs started to turn things around. Shortly after the win against the Red Wings, the Leafs went on a six game winning streak. Toronto then went on a three game winning streak, moving the team up the standings. At this point  time, Toronto is fifth in the Eastern Conference and first in the Wildcard standings with 70 points. Phil Kessel leads the team in points (65). Kessel is fourth in the league in points and second in the league in goals (31). As mentioned in my last article, Kessel was named Player of the Week and Player of the Month recently. As for the Leafs goal tending,  Jonathan Bernier is the better of the two  goalies with 2.55 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle advised his players (the players who are not going to Sochi) to exercise during the break.  Carlyle said the team is going back to work after the Olympics are over. “Games are going to get tougher,” said Carlyle after the Vancouver game. The Leafs are back in action on February 27.  Toronto face the New York Islanders.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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