FGD #68: The Leafs Visit (6pm MT, SN West)

It’s always special when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town. They’re English Canada’s oldest hockey club. They were a dynasty. They were my dad’s favourite team growing up, and because of the preponderance of coverage of the team across the country, we always know how they’re doing.

And they’re doing BAD this season.

As has been detailed by the deteriorating mental state of our Nations colleague Steve Dangle this season – aside: everyone should watch his LFR videos for sheer entertainment value – the Leafs have been a befuddlingly poor team this season. And they provide a really potent reminder of how unique and fortunate this Flames season has been. The Flames are winning games in every wacky, silly, goofy and unlikely way that they can. The Leafs? They’re losing in every insane way they can, and I can see how it can break the minds of their fans.

We have 15 regular season games to go here in Cowtown. If Calgary wins 8 or 9 of them, we’re probably seeing hockey after April 11. And that’s pretty cool, no matter how you slice it. Remember that our pals in Toronto won’t be so fortunate, and that things very easily could have gone worse for Calgary.

Special Leafs visit means special start time! It’s a 6pm MT start, so cut out of work early and head down to the ‘Dome, or catch it on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Jonas Hiller gets the start tonight, as Karri Ramo goes tomorrow night in Denver. Hiller has just one start recently (against Detroit) but was solid in relief in the wacky comeback against Ottawa. He’s 20-17-4 with a 2.41 goals against average and .915 save percentage.

No major changes for the Flames, as they’ll go to war with the same guys they did against the Ducks. That means no line shuffles and that Corey Potter, Drew Shore and Emile Poirier are your extra bodies. On the injured list are Ladislav Smid (neck, done for season), Mark Giordano (bicep, done for season) and Paul Byron (all-over-body, back soon).

The Flames have played really well against the Leafs in their last three meetings – out-shooting them in all three meetings the past two seasons. But they lost all three of them, because of Jonathan freakin’ Bernier. Calgary needs points, so expect a lot of traffic, deflections and craziness around Bernier’s crease.

THE LEAFS

Via Daily Faceoff:

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Jonathan Bernier starts for the Leafs. He’s 20-21-6 with a 2.80 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He’s not a bad goalie, but he’s seeing a lot of high-quality shots from opponents. As detailed above, he was the difference in Calgary’s last three meetings with Toronto. UPDATE: Calgary gets the lesser of the two Leafs goalies, with Bernier probably going tomorrow in Vancouver.

Dion Phaneuf was absent from practice this morning – he’s reportedly ill – but he’s expected to play tonight. He’s joined by Tim Erixon in the “former Flames first rounders” club, Toronto chapter. Former Hitmen Brandon Kozun returns to the ‘Dome as a member of the Leafs, as well.

The Leafs are a team with a bunch of talented players who have serially underachieved this season. The Flames should be capable of beating them, particularly given how important this game is to their playoff aspirations.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Toronto
Wins 37 27
Power Play 18.8% (11th) 17.5% (21st)
Penalty Kill 80.6% (21st) 81.3% (17th)
Corsi 44.2% (28th) 46.3% (27th)
Corsi Close 44.9% (28th) 45.8% (26th)
Faceoffs 47.8% (25th) 48.3% (23rd)
PDO 101.1 (7th) 99.8 (20th)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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A win puts Calgary at 81 points, putting them 14 points back of the magic 95 points mark. That would also give them some breathing room, temporarily putting them ahead of Vancouver and tied with Minnesota. The key here is for the Flames, much like a potential horror movie victim, to throw teams between them and the Winnipeg Jets in the chase.

Elsewhere tonight:

  • Dallas tries to stay alive in the race when they face Washington!
  • The Wild face a struggling Anaheim Ducks squad!

SUM IT UP

It’s a potential trip-up game tonight for the Calgary Flames, as the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs visit. All the Flames need to do to get themselves into the playoffs is win 8 or 9 games. A win tonight would help move them towards the promised land.

Just win, baby.

  • MonsterPod

    So Jiri Hudler is 18th in league scoring, notching points at a better ppg pace than Giroux, Pavelski, and Stamkos.

    Johnny for the Calder. Tied for rookie scoring but has played two fewer games than Forsberg.

    GFG

    • Derzie

      The panel on Sportsnet were prattling on about giving their votes to Ekblad because he is young and playing productive top minutes. All true but he is not having a better or more impactful season than Johnny. Do the right things voters. As the Simpsons say: Johnny forever, Ekblad never.

      • MattyFranchise

        I looked into this around the 50 something game mark and at that point I would have given my vote to Ekblad as well. It takes a special type of player to come into the league and 18 and have that kind of impact on defense.

        However, Gaudreau is making a very strong case for himself. As much as I hate to say it, unless Forsberg dies in a bizarre gardening accident or something, Gaudreau will likely be overlooked come Calder voting time.

  • everton fc

    I missed the game, just got home and saw the score, and had to laugh at the memory of seeing all the Leafs jerseys on 9th Avenue downtown prior to the opening faceoff. Those mutts must be feeling pretty low right now! What a gutless team the Leafs have become. I just saw the highlights – on Hudler’s goal, no one near him. No sense of urgency on many of our goals. Poor Horachek. He should bail now. Who’d want to rebuild that sinking ship? Full of gaping holes…

    How did Ferland do? Over 14 minutes. Good to see. Engelland with an assist. Will the earth spin off it’s axis this evening?!

    I hope we hold onto Stajan for the remainder of his contract.

    • MattyFranchise

      I missed the first 30 minutes of the game due to work but Ferland played a pretty sound game. He ended with a penalty while I was watching but at least he has some skating ability and defensive awareness. Playing with Stajan probably helped him out a bit tonight.

      Somehow Engelland was a + player tonight. I’m not sure how the defensive pairings shook out but I think that Engelland ended up with Wideman while Russell got bumped up. I wasn’t really paying attention to the defense though.

      Shore potted his first as a Flame and played a solid game. Hiller let in a weak wrister from the point but was otherwise outstanding, made some huge saves.

      All in all it was about the game you’d expect from a team trying to make the playoffs versus a team trying to tank as fast as possible.

  • xploD

    Man you’d have to think if Johnny even cools down a bit he is still a close lock for the calder. He’s 5’8.. He’s probably going to lead rookies in scoring, he’s doing on a team that everyone said would finish bottom 6. He’s doing it in so many magical ways. He’s overcome more than any other rookie and has thrived more than any other as well. He is also scoring the most points in the later part of the season, which is obviously the most difficult. Ekblad is great and all but he’s huge and it was speculated well that he was NHL ready and was going to make an impact right away, most people said put JG in the AHL to start…

    • MonsterPod

      What I’m most excited about is that the trophy doesn’t mean a thing. Sure, it would be nice, but the most important thing is that this kid’s a Flame.

      The Baertschi situation was unfortunate. He was supposed to be the smallish LW that was magic and lit it up, but Johnny has come in and absolutely killed it. He makes the loss of Sven okay.

      You can’t have a team with too many small guys. We all know what the playoffs are like and who wins and how. So it’s outstanding that Johnny is our guy.

      I want to see jerseys at the Dome that have #13 and just HOCKEY on the back to celebrate this player.

  • xploD

    Great win tonight.

    I for one would love to see Kadri respond to his ‘shanny suspension’ (I guesses he misses his previous job-it has to be better then be associated with this team) by leading this woeful bunch of sad sacks over the Canucks.

    For the first time in my life I my actually cheer for the leafs, which doesn’t feel so dirty when their playing the nucks.

  • MattyFranchise

    Even after losing Bouma early, the Flames rolled four lines and three defence pairs. Engelland at 21 minutes, Mony down around 20. That is as good as they can get for the first half of a back to back.

    Hartley did will with that. It helped that it was the Leafs, but still.

  • MonsterPod

    Beloch, Mattyc, Wack D et al … mucho saludos for the excellent commentary and banter Re: XDiff.

    It is the stuff that makes FN so terrific for not only a Flames fan, but a hockey fan as well.

    Thanks again … !