In a back-to-back scenario on the road, the Maple Leafs Leafs did themselves a favour with an easy win over the Edmonton Oilers yesterday. Carlyle was able to scale back the minutes of Kessel, JvR and Kadri between 14-16 minutes each, and keep Dion Phaneuf under 20 minutes on the night as he rolled his lines once the game was safely in the bag. Amazingly, Kessel put up 4 points in 15 minutes of work yesterday.
1A/1B goaltending situations also lend themselves well to back to back situations, and the Leafs have a pretty damn good one of those going at the moment. Jonathan Bernier has been confirmed for the start tonight. Other than the goaltending change, no lineup alterations are expected from last night’s winning combination in Edmonton.
Going into any NHL rink having finished up a game 20 hours previous is tough, but there might be a tendency to underestimate the Flames among those who haven’t been keeping an eye on them a little bit in the early going. The Flames are unbeaten in regulation at home this season, and are a moderately surprising 5-4-1 to start the season. The Flames do not have much in the way of established front line talent at this point – though they have something very special in the making in 19 year old center Sean Monahan – but are a team that’s shown some scoring depth in the early going on lines 1-3, which Bob Hartley has been rolling to some effect. The Flames are top 10 in offense entering tonight with 3.09 goals per game.
Monahan is an early Calder candidate with 6 goals and 10 points in 11 games, while Hudler is relishing the mentor’s role on his line with 13 points. Hartley has deployed the pair to take advantage of weaker competition, so expect the home team to look to match Monahan, Hudler and Baertschi up against the McClement/Ashton/Lupul and Smith/McLaren/Orr lines. Hartley likes to use center Mikael Backlund for a huge percentage of their defensive zone draws without much of a chance to breathe offensively as he’s been rotated up and down the lineup in the first month. Daily Faceoff has him beside fourth liners Brian McGrattan and Lance Bouma as of last check.
Stempniak, Cammalleri, Baertschi and Jones are all also off to decent starts offensively for Calgary. Numbering the Flames’ lines is a little foolhardy, as their top three lines aren’t anything spectacular and Hartley has been moving his centers around quite a bit, but they do have the ability to piece together three decent 2nd-3rd lines.
The exciting part from the Leaf perspective: The Flames have allowed the second most goals in the league on a per game basis this season, they’re second last in team save percentage, and are one of the worst penalty killing teams in the league. The eyes of the red-hot Kessel, JvR, Kadri and company must be lighting up at the prospect of further worsening those stats. The Flames will also be without key defensive cog and captain Mark Giordano, who had put up a pretty amazing 9 points in 8 games while starting less than 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone before being placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. The Leafs are also playing one of two teams worse than them in the faceoff circle.
The Flames will be very well rested, having not played since Saturday’s 5-2 win over Washington, and do not have any shortage of reasons to get up for this one. Brian Burke and Lee Stempniak (broken foot) will want this win from the press box, while Matt Stajan and Colborne are going to be playing against their former franchise. I’m glad Stempniak and Stajan (he’s only played 3 games but has 2 points) have some early points to their name, but I don’t think anyone in Toronto will be yearning for their return any time soon, provided we ignore Cliff Fletcher’s senior advisory opinion. We’ll always owe Stajan our thanks for not only signing his abhorrent contract elsewhere, but for getting thrown in the package of mediocrity that landed us Dion Phaneuf before he did so. Burke just can’t shake this guy no matter how hard he tries.
In terms of a Leaf with extra motivation tonight, Phaneuf will be looking to bring his best stuff in a building that will likely boo him throughout the evening for reminding Flames fans of how they haven’t made the playoffs since he left.
In all seriousness, I hope Brian Burke looks on tonight and takes pride in what he left behind in Toronto for his best bud Dave Nonis. The talent restocking process and organization overhaul he oversaw in the mecca of hockey has really started bearing its fruits. It’s a shame the new ownership group never saw the forest for the trees. Thank you, Burkie.
|GF/G||3.31 (4th)||3.09 (9th)|
|GA/G||2.31 (6th)||3.46 (29th)|
|SF/G||26.8 (27th)||29.5 (20th)|
|SA/G||35.5 (29th)||30.7 (16th)|
|PP||26.1% (2nd)||19% (17th)|
|PK||85.4% (5th)||75.7% (28th)|
|5 on 5 F/A||1.30 (10th)||0.92 (16th)|
|Sh%||12.4% (1st)||10.5% (6th)|
|Sv%||93.5% (5th)||88.8% (29th)|
|FO%||44.2 (28th)||43.9 (30th)|