Toronto Maple Leafs @ Calgary Flames
4:00 PM E.T. Sunday on Sportsnet Ontario and Sportsnet West
9:00 PM E.T. Tuesday on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet One
SB Nation Opponent’s site: Matchsticks Nucks and Gasoline Misconduct
Similar to their pair of matches with Connor McDavid and the Oilers, our boys in blue are going to see a lot of fire in the next few days. The Leafs will have their first player returnee game Sunday afternoon as they gear up for back-to-back games against the Flames. T.J. Brodie may not get the standing ovation most players receive in these situations, given current circumstances, but it will be an emotional return nonetheless for the 30-year-old who knew only one team his entire career.
Brodie played in a total of 634 games with the Calgary Flames after being taken 114th in the 2008 draft. Many of those games were on the right side of team captain Mark Giordano, and it was those performances that made him an attractive asset to the Leafs. It will be a different dressing room and different point of view, however, the game is all the same.
While the Leafs are playing their 7th game of the season, this will be the Flames’ fourth. The season started with an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets followed by two wins over the Vancouver Canucks, which by the look of things, is not the best feat.
This will likely be a game of the good ol’ rest cliches. The Flames haven’t played in five days while the Leafs are coming off a 4-2 win over the Oilers. Will that matter? Should that matter? And most importantly, will Auston Matthews return to the lineup!?
Projected Leafs Lines
(from last game on Friday)
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - Alexander Kerfoot - Jimmy Vesey
Ilya Mikheyev - Pierre Engvall - Wayne Simmonds
Alexander Barabanov - Adam Brooks - Jason Spezza
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Zach Bogosian
Frederik Andersen (assumed starter)
Projected Flames Lines
(based on practice, source: Wes Gilbertson)
Andrew Mangiapane – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Dominik Simon
Sam Bennett – Mikael Backlund – Josh Leivo
Milan Lucic – Derek Ryan – Joakim Nordstrom
Mark Giordano – Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev
Juuso Valimaki – Nikita Nesterov
Jacob Markstrom (assumed starter)
The Flames have run into some injuries via Dillon Dube who is out with a lower-body injury. That has paved the way for Mangiapane to get the promotion to the top line. It’s likely to stay this way for Sunday’s match, however, there’s a chance he can be back for Tuesday.
Elias Lindholm is leading the team in several categories: Points (4), Goals (2), and average time on ice (21:55). Rest-narrative aside, the Flames are a team that generate many scoring chances for themselves and produce within that high-danger triangle.
On the Leafs’ end, Mitch Marner is at the top offensively with 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in 6 games while Morgan Rielly is averaging 24:27 this season.
One of the bigger questions is what Leafs team will we see tonight? Will it be the Leafs team who defend their way out of scoring by not taking enough shots or the Leafs who can properly live the best of both worlds? Another factor to take into consideration is Markstrom.
Sample size is everything; that said, Markstrom has looked stronger in each of his two starts after the season opener with a .935 Sv%. On the other hand, Frederik Andersen has morphed into his November variant. The Oilers came out strong and the mantra of trying to create more offence resulted in several odd-man rushes in the opening half of the first. Freddie was there for all of them. It only took some cross-wiring and a McDavid deflection to beat Andersen but he was still the sole reason the Leafs walked out with two points.
Both goaltenders will need to be strong considering the firepower on display. Tkachuk and Lindholm are a quality duo and having Monohan and Gaudreau on the second line provide the team with a wave-like motion of execution. Having Auston Matthews back in the lineup would be great in Game One if he’s over that upper-body soreness. If not, the Kerfoot line was good against the Oilers and the top line has more to give at 5v5.
The Leafs and Flames have been pegged as the two teams in the North Division with the deepest offence heading into the season. Injuries are in the way of things, but this will be a fun way to see how the two teams stack up against each other. At the same time, it wouldn't hurt the Leafs to go on a run this upcoming week starting with today. They’ve played 3 more games, but the Flames are only 3 points back of them.
Is it too early to pay attention to the standings? Yes, however, that’s the nature of a shortened season.