April 01 2014 09:30AM
The Leafs sit on the precipice of a truly epic collapse and the Flames are poised to help them to their untimely demise. Basically, the Flames are Scar and the Leafs are Mufasa ... if everyone enjoyed Mufasa's death because they were constantly bombarded with coverage about Mufasa's every roster move or contemplation...whatever, it's not a perfect analogy. Either way, if the Flames can help take out Toronto, the compartment of my brain that houses my Schadenfreude, which was already quite full (see: Canucks, Vancouver and Oilers, Edmonton), will reach near maximum capacity and produce enough endorphins to make me forget that my team's games haven't really mattered since November.
The ice-cold Leafs host the Flames tonight and are fighting for their post-season lives while the Flames are content continuing their quest to leave a trail of scorched earth behind them while they finalize their tee-times for May. The Flames have also been auditioning some new faces in the process as they play out the season. As Ryan pointed out on twitter last night, when Bryce van Brabant plays tonight, it will be the 10th rookie that plays for the Flames this season.
Have a look at tonight's lineup and preview after the jump
THE FIGHTIN' FLAMES
The Flames will have another new face in the lineup tonight with the debut of Bryce van Brabant (pronounced BRAH bent according to Roger Millions) from Quinnipiac (pronounced NAMBLA) University. Here is the roster thanks to Daily Faceoff and Roger Millions on twitter:
Cammalleri – Backlund – Byron
McGrattan – Stajan – Hudler
Glencross – Monahan – Colborne
Van Brabant – Bouma – Westgarth
Brodie – Giordano
Butler – Russell
Billins – Wotherspoon
The Flames are coming off of a pretty lackluster 6-3 loss to the Senators, a game in which they lead 3-2 after Sean Monahan scored his highly anticipated 20th goal of the season. The loss could explain why the lines have been jumbled quite a bit and I fully expect them to change over the course of tonight's game as well. Man, that McGrattan - Stajan - Hudler line looks bizarre. I just have no idea what to expect from them at all...
Van Brabant starts on the fourth line with Lance Bouma (whom is apparently a centre now?) and Kevin Westgarth. I was kinda hoping that with Van Brabant being a 6'3, 220lb winger who led the NCAA in penalty minutes the Flames would sit down Kevin Westgarth. However, apparently I have forgotten that Kevin Westgarth is the sinew, the very essence of what it means to 'intimidate' and 'compete' so there is no sense in leaving him out of the lineup. I sincerely hope that Van Brabant isn't being groomed as yet another goon as Lambert has warned because, well, aren't they trying that with Kanzig? The scratches look to be T.J Galiardi, Ben "why am I still up?" Hanowski, and Ken Agostino.
Chad Billins will play his fourth game of the season tonight after playing 13 minutes on Sunday and finishing minus two. Overall, I kinda liked Billins' game despite finishing a minus I would like to see him a bit more but I am not sure what the Flames have in him yet. His AHL stats indicate that there is some offence in his game and he played 1:29 of PP time on Sunday so it would be good if he could start to generate some offence during his time filling in for Smid. It would help him not get lost in the shuffle this off-season.
I am intrigued to see how Glencross does on Monahan's line as I could see this as a pretty good third/second line for the Flames moving into next season. That is, as long as Colborne continues to play as decently as he has the past nine games or so. Monahan's numbers haven't been great the last four games, having a sub-50CF% in all four including an abysmal 12.9% (!) in the win against the Rangers.
However, as BoL pointed out in his post yesterday, these bumps are expected when you have a teenager playing in the best league in the world. I think everyone, Flames brass included, will leave 2013-14 very happy with his 20 goals and for good reason. I don't think there is any reason to panic quite yet about his possession numbers.
Ramo returns to net after a bit of rocky outing against Ottawa numbers-wise, letting in 5 goals on 36 shots. That said, none of the goals were really his fault and the fourth was a really screwy goal, I mean Jared Cowen scored it so that is weird in and of itself. I would like for Ramo to have a really good outing tonight if, for no other reason, to prove to the assembled national media that he is a capable goaltender.
In fact, I would like for a number of Flames, chiefly Backlund (who finished Sunday's game with nine(!) shots on net), Giordano, and Brodie, to have good nights for that same reason. Not that it matters a great deal what the scribes in the big smoke think of particular Flames players, it would just be nice for them to get wider recognition for the seasons they are having.
I also just thought I would include this highlight pack in here as well. Why? because Paul Byron rules and he scored on a penalty shot in this game:
THE (SHRIVELED) LEAFS
Here is their roster for tonight's tilt thanks to Daily Faceoff and literally a thousand Leaf reporters on twitter:
van Riemsdyk - Bozak - Kessel
Raymond - Kadri - Lupul
Kulemin - Bolland - Clarkson
Bodie - McClement - D'Amigo
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Franson - Gardiner
Rielly - Gleason
If roughly 30% of the internet is porn, than I would venture a guess that 50% of the non-porn websites are devoted to the most recent collapse of the Maple Leafs. Our buddies at Leafs Nation have been writing some fantastic stuff all year and these past weeks have been no exception as they have detailed the destruction of a season that looked almost certainly bound for the post season.
I won't get into the tensions between the established mainstream media and the advanced stats community this season (and past seasons as well) in Toronto but suffice to say that observing the whole thing from a distance has made for compelling reading if nothing else.
I literally cannot add any more to this discussion myself but the Coles notes of the situation this season reads as follows the Leafs started off really well, some stats guys (presumably from their mother's basement, their Hanes crew-neck shirts besmirched with the remnants of this afternoon's Cheetos) suggested that their success was unsustainable due to their possession numbers being god awful. Well, I suppose if you have looked at the standings lately you know how it turned out.
I am curious to know what you guys thought the biggest contributing factor was to the Leafs nose dive this season, so let me know in the comments and we can all bask in the glory of their fall from playoff relevancy.
Lineup wise, the Leafs look pretty solid and at times this year, this team has looked like they are, at worst, a playoff team that could be a headache. Their top-line is dynamite, with JvR and Kessel having great seasons and Bozak playing pretty decently as well. However, after the top line things have gone a bit sideways for the Leafs of late.
The Leafs have gone their longest stretch without a point since Bob Dole ran for President and are looking to avoid their longest losing streak since 1985. Most recently, In a must-win game (well, the Leafs have had quite a few of those lately), the Leafs couldn't beat the Datsyukless and Zetterbergless Wings on home ice, which places their playoff hopes from critical condition to the ICU. The Flames could essentially pull the plug.
Here's how things look for the Leafs' wild card hopes heading into tonight's action at the ACC:
The Capitals are a point up on the Leafs with a game at hand and play Dallas at home tonight as well. The Leafs will start to need some help from some teams if they are going to make this happen to say the least. Hell, the Senators are two points back of the Leafs with a game at hand. If the Sens were to catch the Leafs, we would be be able to hear the screams from the Bow river.
If you didn't know already, I hate to be the one to break it to you but the Flames have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Sorry kid, it's all over after these seven games. However, the Flames are within striking distance of 27th overall as the Islanders are one point back and playing the Panthers (who are in full pursuit of the Oilers for the number two spot)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?
The Flames have an opportunity to essentially end the Leafs playoff hopes tonight and by golly wouldn't that feel good for us here in Cowtown? These two teams have had remarkably different seasons this year with the Leafs crumbling under the expectations placed on them from a scorching hot start to the season and the Flames winning a helluva lot more than a lot of people expected and generally making this season a lot of fun for fans.
It will also be a chance to get a glimpse at another college standout whom is auditioning for a full time spot in pro hockey. I am not expecting a natural hat-trick or anything, but there isn't a lot else to look for this time of year roster wise. Hopefully there is some offense and some skating ability to go with his size.
It's an early start tonight as the puck drops at 5pm MT on SNET - West.