After another high-scoring affair and an important bounce-back win against the New Jersey Devils, the Toronto Maple Leafs now play host to the Calgary Flames, who are second in the Pacific Division and just one point behind the Leafs in the league standings (7 p.m. ET, TSN4).
For the most part, it was a by-committee approach for the Leafs defense corps against the Devils, although Travis Dermott and Justin Holl took the biggest workload with around 18 minutes of ice time 5-on-5, with Cody Ceci in third at just over 16. With a few power plays to take care of, Tyson Barrie even-strength ice time was lowest among defensemen at 11:40. Martin Marincin, who was praised by Keefe post-game, came out to a little under 13 minutes, and the same goes for Rasmus Sandin. Essentially, Dermott and Holl were taking the brunt of the 5-on-5 matchups, while the other four were tops in their respective special teams roles — Marincin and Ceci on the PK, and Barrie and Sandin on the PP.
A bigger challenge for Toronto’s banged up back end tonight comes in the form of two credible top six lines. A struggling Devils team came to town at the right time, with only the Coleman-Zajac-Gusev line proving to be a threat outside of isolated chances — they generated more than half of New Jersey’s total scoring chances in the game. Tonight, both the long-standing Monahan-Gaudreau combo and Elias Lindholm’s line with Matthew Tkachuk will provide more difficult one-two-punch matchups for the Leafs‘ banged-up D-core.
In net, David Rittich will start for the Flames. He’s started 34 games this season after only 42 last year and his numbers have remained almost the same. Last year, he went 27-9-5 with a .911 Sv% and a GSAx of -1.2, while this season he’s gone 18-11-5 with a 913 Sv% and a GSAx of -1.8. Both in terms of unadjusted save percentage and threat-based save percentage, Rittich is right around league average for a starter.
After ending a three-game losing slump vs. New Jersey, Frederik Andersen gets the start in the Leafs net tonight. Andersen hasn’t conceded fewer than three goals in a game since the calendar flipped to 2020 (5GP, .875 save percentage).
Game Day Quotes
John Tavares on the team’s 4-2 loss against the Flames earlier in the year:
Yeah, it’s a game we let get away from us. Obviously, it was a good opportunity to get the result we wanted, so it leaves a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth. It would be nice to change the script today. Obviously, it gives you a sense of the way they play, their style, and what they like to do. We know their D like to be active and get into the play, so it’s imperative that we’re staying above people and making good puck decisions. We want to play with it and break them down.
Jason Spezza on Matthew Tkachuk and the role agitators still play in the NHL:
There’s still guys around the league, but there’s less of that these days. There’s lots of guys that are agitators around the league, though. [Tkachuk] is a combination of high-end skill and being able to do that, so he’s a unique player, for sure.
We haven’t had too much issue with [players like Tkachuk]. We’re a team where I think it’s good when emotion gets into our game, but we don’t get distracted by guys and the makeup of our locker room doesn’t seem like one that’s going to get too fazed by one particular guy.
Sheldon Keefe on the benefit of long AHL careers before beaking in the NHL:
For guys that spend more time in the American League, it gives them more time to develop their bodies and their game, play in more situations be it powerplay or penalty kill. In our case, long playoff runs as well — ups and downs, the emotions of the playoffs, all those things — serve players very well to take on whatever their career might bring.
Keefe on the last game vs. Calgary where the team fell apart in the third period:
Things like that happen so quickly and in such a short amount of time, and there is some randomness to it. We didn’t focus on it at all other than to say we left two points in Calgary that we’d like to get back here tonight. We focus more on the things that happened throughout the 60 minutes that we think are factors and we need to do a better job of today or look to continue to exploit when we get the opportunity to.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#47 Pierre Engvall – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#42 Trevor Moore – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #19 Jason Spezza
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl
#52 Martin Marincin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #83 Cody Ceci
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Dmytro Timashov, Timothy Liljegren, Adam Brooks
Injured: Trevor Moore, Ilya Mikheyev, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#13 Johnny Gaudreau – #23 Sean Monahan – #11 Mikael Backlund
#19 Matthew Tkachuk – #28 Elias Lindholm – #88 Andrew Mangiapane
#17 Milan Lucic – #10 Derek Ryan – #29 Dillon Dube
#54 Zach Rinaldo – #16 Tobias Rieder – #93 Sam Bennett
#5 Mark Giordano – #7 T.J Brodie
#55 Noah Hanifin – #24 Travis Hamonic
#58 Oliver Kylington – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#33 David Rittich (starter)
#39 Cam Talbot
Injured: Juuso Valimaki