Toronto Maple Leafs @ Calgary Flames
09:00 PM at Scotiabank Saddledome
Watch on: TVAS, SNW, TSN4

The Leafs last game was away on January 16 against the Edmonton Oilers, which Toronto lost by a score of 4-2 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 21-13-8 for a 0.595 Points %.

The Calgary Flames last played at home on January 16 against the Arizona Coyotes. The Flames won by a score of 3-2 in overtime, and their current league record is 21-18-5 for a 0.534 Points %.


The first thing I notice about the Flames is that for all the doom and gloom about the team, three more overtime losses, and they'd have the same points as the Leafs. Maybe that's about the Leafs, not the Flames.

Jacob Markstrom is having a big bounce-back year, and is 10th for goalies with at least 15 games played in Goals Saved above Expected (I use Moneypuck for this, because the interface is fast). Markstrom is out with a minor injury, giving the team a chance to use their prospect Dustin Wolf behind Daniel Vladar.

So is the team bad, or did they just have a rough start?

The Leafs and the Bruins are 14th and 15th in five-on-five Expected Goals at 51.5%. There are eight teams below them at 49% - 51%. The Flames are in that group. And unless you have a big bonus on the power play, extremely gifted defence, or the world's hottest goalies, that puts you in tough to touch the playoffs.

The Flames have had bad goaltending because Vladar and Wolf have given back every expected goal Markstrom has saved.

Their power play is okay in shot generation, but their Shooting % is terrible. Their five-on-five shooting is average, so it's not helping or hurting them.


Projected lineup:

Jonathan Huberdeau - Elias Lindholm - Yegor Sharangovich
Connor Zary - Nazem Kadri - Martin Pospisil
Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Blake Coleman
A.J. Greer - Adam Ruzicka - Dillon Dube

MacKenzie Weegar - Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin - Chris Tanev
Jordan Oesterle - Nick DeSimone

Daniel Vladar - starter
Dustin Wolf


By most measures, the Leafs are a slightly better team than the Flames, but when they get a dip in goal scoring like they have right now, they are very beatable.

The power play is a big bonus, but you don't get power play goals in a nice regular one in 3.9 tries like success percentage seems to lead people to believe.

The goaltending overall has been better than the Flames, largely because Martin Jones allowed the Leafs to just not play Ilya Samsonov. But it's only a little better.

The Leafs have crawled up to that 51.5% mediocre Expected Goals rate with some improved play, a few slugfests beating up bad teams and a period without injuries to the defence. It's not good enough. Forget individual players, the goalies, who has produced (barf) lately. That 51.5% is only good enough if the team routinely scores over expected, has an excellent goalie in every game, and really cooks on the power play.

The long run of flat salary cap seasons makes it very difficult to have excellence in every roster spot. Not that that's very possible even in the fantasy world of no salary cap. It's pretty hard to cruise at the middle altitude of xG and win often enough to not be a third-place or wild card team.

Last year the Panthers, the Bruins, the Leafs, the Flames and the Oilers were all at 54% - 55%. It's not just the Leafs finding this season tougher, and half the teams better than the Leafs (slight exaggeration) have worse goaltending troubles.


Via Mark Masters today, lines unchanged from last game.

Pontus Holmberg - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Matthew Knies - John Tavares - William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok
Bobby McMann - David Kämpf - Noah Gregor

Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren

Martin Jones -starter
Ilya Samsonov

The Game

Moneypuck has the Leafs favoured to win this game, which makes sense. Home ice advantage is a small effect on average, and can be overcome by better goaltending and special teams results. But for the bulk of the game, these two teams are pretty evenly matched.

So don't expect to be beating up on a bad team just because there are claims the Flames are trading all their players.