October 30 2013 02:13PM
After a fine performance against the Oilers a night ago and leaving the city in ruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs head south for a Wednesday night showdown against the Calgary Flames, a rough-and-tumble, quick, exciting team that launched out of the gate and defied preseason expectations. They've risen all the way to 5-4-2 after a lovely start and are 6th place in the Pacific Division.
Okay, maybe their start was a little less hot than it seemed. The Flames were forced into keeping Sean Monahan, the sixth overall pick from last June who was producing when the team had to make a decision on whether to keep him around. There's some twisted voodoo going on in Calgary—between 2010 and 2012 the team finished with 90, 94, and 90 points and failed to make the playoffs each season. They were the poster boy team for winning not enough games to make the playoffs, but too many good games to land a decent draft pick.
So far this season, the Flames are on pace for 89 points.
|Corsi Close %||43.5% (29th)||46.8% (24th)|
|5v5 GF/60||2.52 (12th)||2.58 (11th)|
|5v5 GA/60||2.02 (10th)||2.93 (27th)|
|PDO||1.041 (2nd)||.993 (18th)|
|5v4 GF/60||9.16 (6th)||6.85 (16th)|
|5v4 SF/60||57.5 (11th)||40.3 (28th)|
|4v5 GA/60||3.82 (4th)||9.58 (29th)|
|4v5 SA/60||66.5 (27th)||46.9 (7th)|
|5v5 Penalty Diff||-22||E|
Blah blah blah shot differentials don't tell you anything Cam blah blah blah haven't you ever watched a game blah blah blah. I think that this point I'm posting the numbers for the benefit of looking at the other team, because even though Lanny MacDonald accidentally spat on a gypsy in the summer of 1989 and she cursed the team by damning them to perpetual mediocrity for the next six centuries, the Flames, like 27 other teams in the NHL, have nice, normal PDOs each year and as a result, their blog commentariat doesn't fill up with snark every pre- and-post-game.
What to learn about the Flames? Well, they're slightly better than the Oilers, but not by much. The rest of the Pacific Division is exceptionally good to start the season, with as little as three and as many as five (either Phoenix, Anaheim or Vancouver are due to out themselves as frauds at any minute) excellent teams, but the Alberta teams have sort of lagged behind. At least the Flames haven't rolled over dead to start the season and even though their record is pretty unimpressive when extrapolated over 82 games, they've scored a tonne of goals and have been exciting to watch. Their goaltending has been off and on, hurting their penalty kill (you can see they're 7th in shots against and 29th in goals against) and they do give up a tonne of goals at even strength as well.
Basically, this has the indication of a game that the Leafs could also out-shoot any problems they might have, as they did yesterday.
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
No skate today, but we'll assume it's the same as last night's:
James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond - David Bolland - David Clarkson
Carter Ashton - Jay McClement - Joffrey Lupul
Frazer McLaren - Trevor Smith - Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly - Cody Franson
Paul Ranger - Jake Gardiner
No points yet for David Clarkson, but the Leafs have out-attempted the opposition 47-43 with Clarkson on the ice so he's at least moving play in the right direction. The only other Leaf that's played this year that is in the black is Carter Ashton. Since Frazer McLaren's return, by-the-by, the Leafs have been out-attempted 5-23 with him on the ice. He is basically the worst thing ever, and because I pointed this out, he'll probably score a goal tonight.
Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - David Jones
Michael Cammalleri - Joe Colborne - T.J. Galiardi
Sven Baertschi - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Brian McGrattan
Chris Butler - T.J. Brodie
Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman
Shane O'Brien - Derek Smith
At the start of the season I would joke that the Flames shouldn't even bother with nameplates. Nobody would know who three quarters of the team is anyway. Even in a hockey-mad city like Calgary, do you suppose any of these people get recognized in bars?
Imagine Derek Smith hitting on a cute girl in a bar. If you need to pull out your phone to Wikipedia your name and show her that, indeed, you are the pro-hockey player, you're going to have a tough time. "No, I really DO play for the Flames. I'm wearing my jersey and everything. Would a fan really buy a 'D. SMITH' jersey?"
Joking aside, that second line has actually had some success together with Cammalleri back in the lineup. I say "some" because it's not like they've done overly well, but relative to the rest of the group. Cammalleri's group has been out-shot 32-36 in score-close situations since his return, fairly close to even. What's notable is that the only healthy, regular player in the lineup in the black is actually T.J. Galiardi, picked up for peanuts this offseason.
The defence is going to hurt without Mark Giordano, as is my hockey pool team. Chris Butler is just about the worst in any stat category you can provide, so running him with the Flames current only competent two-way defenceman in T.J. Brodie should be fun. It would be like Fran Drescher singing harmonies on Beatles songs.
I will say though... problems aside (not only is Lee Stempniak's injury a big loss, but think about how dire a situation your core would need to be in for Lee Stempniak to be a big loss) the Flames have been a tonne of fun to watch. This should be a good game.
The Leafs will get Karri Ramo tonight. No way to know on which Flames goalie is better since neither have an awful lot of NHL experience, but Ramo has played better than Joey MacDonald early in the season, racking up a .913 even strength save percentage (.899 for Joey) although the PK problems have generally been in front of Kari.
Leafs will go with Jonathan Bernier, which makes sense. Despite Reimer's near perfect last two starts, he did play a game ago and faced a lot of third period rubber. Bernier's save percentage is now 19 points below Reimer's, so he needs to make up some ground tonight.
The Leafs and the Flames face-off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on TSN. Don't forget to StreakCred .
Finally, food for thought?