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!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
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.
Via Daily Faceoff:
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.
Will actually be Reimer tonight for Leafs
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) March 13, 2015
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.
|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
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.
- 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.