Entering a four-game road trip, the Toronto Maple Leafs will attempt to build off of a pair of solid defensive showings versus Edmonton while hopefully producing more offensively at five-on-five in their Sunday matinee against the Calgary Flames (4 p.m. EST, SN Ontario).
After Montreal’s decisive win over Vancouver last night, the 4-2-0 Maple Leafs now trail the 4-0-2 Habs and the 4-1-0 Jets for the lead in the North Division. The Flames are also off to a strong start at 2-0-1, although both of Calgary’s wins came against the struggling Canucks (3-0 & 5-2). That said, the two victories were decisive: Adjusted for score, the Flames owned 63% and 70% of the expected goals in those wins.
Calgary has only played three games — and also haven’t played since Monday — meaning they’re lower on game reps but have had multiple opportunities to hold high-intensity practices. The Flames are also injury-free outside of some day-to-day soreness for Dillon Dube.
The big question mark for the Leafs on the injury front is the status of Auston Matthews, particularly knowing they’re facing a tough matchup challenge against the Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan – Johnny Gaudreau lines. Without a media availability due to the early game, we won’t know if Matthews will play until warmups.
Update: The news is good.
Matthews taking line rushes with Vesey and Marner. Appears set to return.
— David Alter (@dalter) January 24, 2021
Through three games, Tkachuk appears to be primed for a big year. He has two goals and an assist while the overall shot share in his minutes has the ice heavily tilted — he’s been on the ice for 43 shot attempts for and only 17 against, while his xGoals split is nearly identical percentage-wise. Neither of Tkachuk’s most common linemates, Elias Lindholm or Dillon Dube, is particularly close to his shot share dominance.
Calgary will shake some things up among their forward lines after a week of practice. Andrew Mangiapane joins one of the Flames’ two core combos at forward, Tkachuk and Lindholm, while Gaudreau and Monahan will be flanked by Dominik Simon.
Having pried Jacob Markstrom away from Vancouver, the Flames are no doubt optimistic about what appears to be a solid goaltending situation. Markstrom, who’s started all three games in 2021, hasn’t faced a very heavy workload overall in terms of high-danger chances against. The Leafs, who are trending in a lower-event direction with their shot output so far this year, would love to change that this afternoon.
At the other end, Sheldon Keefe has stated an intention to approach his team’s goalie split differently than the organization has in the past, giving backup Jack Campbell a greater share of the workload. It appears Campbell — who stopped 17 of 19 in his first appearance, a win over Ottawa — will start his second game of the season this afternoon.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#88 William Nylander – #91 John Tavares – #11 Zach Hyman
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#94 Alexander Barabanov – #47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen
Extras: Adam Brooks, Rasmus Sandin, Mikko Lehtonen, Travis Boyd, Joey Anderson
Injured: Nick Robertson, Joe Thornton
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#88 Andrew Mangiapane – #28 Elias Lindholm – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#13 Johnny Gaudreau– #23 Sean Monahan– #18 Dominik Simon
#93 Sam Bennett – #11 Mikael Backlund – #27 Josh Leivo
#17 Milan Lucic – #10 Derek Ryan – #20 Joakim Norstrom
#5 Mark Giordano – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#55 Noah Hanifin – #8 Chris Tanev
#6 Jusso Valimaki – #89 Nikita Nesterov
#25 Jakob Markstrom (starter)
#33 David Rittich
Extras: Louis Domingue, Connor Mackey, Oliver Kylington, Zac Rinaldo, Derek Ryan, Buddy Robinson
Injured: Dillon Dube