Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Calgary Flames: Gameday
Fresh off an impressive 4-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs get set to faceoff against a surprising Calgary Flames team, which, despite many experts picking them to finish at the bottom of the NHL standings this season, has earned a respectable 5-4-2 record through 11 games.
Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel continues to be red hot (7 goals, three assists in his past ten games), earning second star status from the NHL last week and scoring another two goals (one of which was highlight reel worthy) Tuesday night against the Oilers. Kessel’s pair of goals brought his season total to nine— good enough to put Kessel third overall in goals scored and second overall in the NHL scoring race with 18 points, just behind Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who has 20 points on the season.
Playing predominantly on the wing with Kessel, James van Riemsdyk has been equally lethal, registering six points in his past four games and looking very much like a star in the making.
On the backend, Captain Dion Phaneuf (former Calgary Flame) continues to impress, playing with the intensity, fire and professionalism that many felt he was capable of when he was traded to the Maple Leafs. Phaneuf will enter tonight’s tilt with seven points and a team leading plus-10 rating, which currently stands as the fifth best plus/minus rating in the NHL.
Meanwhile, just when you thought off-season acquisition Jonathan Bernier was the undisputed number one goaltender, James Reimer’s back-to-back wins has him back in the conversation to assume number one status. Fact is, Reimer has given up just two goals on the last 119 shots he has faced.
Both Reimer and Bernier have been impressive this season with Bernier earning a 5-4-0 record (2.34 goals against average, .930 save percentage), while Reimer owns an unblemished 4-0-0 record (1.99 GAA, .949 SV%).
As great as Reimer has been, Maple Leafs head coach is said to be leaning towards starting Bernier tonight against the Flames.
The Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game averaging 3.31 goals per game (fourth overall), while giving up 2.31 goals per game (sixth overall). Meanwhile, Toronto’s special teams continue to impress, with their power play humming along at a 26.1 percent success rate (second overall), while their penalty kill ranks fifth overall at a 85.4 percent success rate.
Injuries: Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin (ankle) and Tyler Bozak (lower body), and defenseman Mark Fraser (knee) are on injured reserve. Forward Joffrey Lupul returned to action last night, while Kulemin and Fraser took part in the morning skate Tuesday.
The Flames enter tonight’s action with a 3-0-1 record at Home. Calgary is getting it done with timely offense, averaging 3.09 goals per game (ninth overall), but are struggling at the other end, giving up an alarming 3.46 goals per game (29th overall).
Both Joey MacDonald (3-2-1, 3.01 GAA, .894 SV%) and Kari Ramo (2-2-1, 3.56 GAA, .892 SV%) have struggled between the pipes, giving up a combined 36 goals in 11 games played.
Up front, the Flames are led by Jiri Hudler (five goals, 13 points) and rookie Sean Monahan (six goals, ten points). Former Maple Leaf Lee Stempniak (four goals, nine points) is expected to be out of the lineup, while fellow former Buds Joel Colborne (10 GP, one goal, three points, Plus-3 rating) and Matt Stajan (3 GP, no goals, two assists +/-0) are expected to be in the lineup.
For Colburne, tonight’s game will serve as a chance to prove the Maple Leafs gave up on him too soon, while Stajan will likely continue to prove former Maple Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke made the right decision when he shipped Stajan out of town as part of the deal that sent Phaneuf to Toronto when Stajan has yet another sub-par game.
Calgary’s penalty kill has been pathetic, sitting at a 75.7 percent success rate, good enough for 28th overall. The Flames power play sits at a 19.0 percent success rate, which ranks 17th overall.
Both teams will enter tonight’s tilt giving up more than 30 shots per game (Leafs: 35.5, Flames: 30.7) and have struggled mightily in the faceoff circle (Leafs: 44.2 percent success rate, Flames: 43.9 percent success rate).
Injuries: Flames defenseman Christopher Breen (abdominal wall) is day-to-day. Fellow D-man Mark Giordano (foot) and forward Lee Stempniak (lower body) are out.
Fearless prediction: With Phil Kessel and JVR red hot, Joffrey Lupul back in the lineup and Jonathan Bernier eager to show his coach that he is worthy of the number one goaltender status, there are plenty of reasons to believe in the Leafs tonight. If that’s not enough, consider all the numbers: the Maple Leafs score more goals, allow less, have the better power play and own the better penalty kill. Add in the fact that the Flames will be missing their best defenseman (Mark Giordano) and arguably their most consistent forward (Lee Stempniak), and this one’s a no-brainer— Maple Leafs win 5-2.