Toronto Maple Leafs at Calgary Flames: Game # 26
Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: The rink Gary wants you to pay to replace, Calgary
Broadcast/Streaming: SNW, TSN4
Opponent SBNation Site: Matchsticks and Gasoline
The Leafs are on the Canadian western trip which went fairly horribly wrong last year. This year, things are looking slightly more stable. The worst thing that seems to happen these days is someone plays the fourth line wing spot who likely shouldn’t and James van Riemsdyk doesn’t get enough minutes in road games.
The expectation is that Connor Carrick is still out for Roman Polak, and of course, with no back-to-backs on this trip, Frederik Andersen should be in net for all three games.
The Flames are currently in third place in the Pacific, the strangest division in the NHL, but they have a negative goal differential and they’re only one point ahead of the next two Pacific division teams. Their position is hardly secure.
They’ve made headlines recently for a brawl with Detroit that involved Matthew Tkachuk, a suspension for Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog for a cross-check on Tkachuk, and the waiving of Eddie Lack and call up of rookie David Rittich who won his only start so far.
The Flames top line is where most of their points come from, and checking Johnny Gaudreau is the most important task on the night. Tkachuk, the dirtiest player to be friends with both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews (sorry Naz) is a force to be reckoned with. He drives play to a Marchand-like extreme, he may score on you, or he may just give you a tonne of power play opportunities. The worst is when he drives you to take penalties, which he does a lot.
Once you get past the oldest man in hockey on the third line, the Flames depth falls off the quality cliff very fast. So maybe sneaking a real scoring threat on the fourth line will work out. It still means playing someone too little and someone else too much, however.
Toronto Maple Leafs
From Monday’s practice, and carrying on from the later stages of the previous game.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - William Nylander
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak
Frederik Andersen - assumed starter
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Jaromir Jagr
Freddie Hamilton - Matt Stajan - Troy Brouwer
Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton
Tj Brodie - Travis Hamonic
Matt Bartkowski - Michael Stone
Mike Smith - assumed starter
The Flames are 10th in the league in Corsi For percentage right now, but are only a small amount better than the Leafs. The bulk of the NHL sits between 48% and 52%. The Flames are on the top end of that group by way of a very high offensive pace and a bad shots against rate identical to the Leafs’. They are, essentially, last year’s Leafs only with goalie talent subbing in for shooting talent (and luck).
Beating the Calgary defence is not a chore as long as the top pair are off the ice (why did anyone want to overpay for Travis Hamonic again?), but beating Mike Smith is sometimes very difficult.
That’s the basic scouting report, now as always, Leafs, score early, score often, and win this one.