0
Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski - USA Today

Maple Leafs Pregame #33: 5 Things to Watch for against Calgary

The Leafs are in Calgary. Poor bastards. Maybe it’s the last trip they’ll make here while Calgary is still part of Canada. Only time will tell. For now they’d probably settle for a Wexit, that’s a win plus a quick trip to the airport.

Anyways, I’m assuming Mercury is retrograde or something because right now the Flames are six game winning streak largely because of the play of Milan Lucic and Zac Rinaldo. Yes, in the year 2019 Zac Rinaldo is still in the NHL and somehow he’s thriving. I guess anything is possible when you move on from a toxic coach.

So here we are. Arguably the two most under-performing teams in Canada desperately trying to get back in the playoff picture under new coaches. Should be intense.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Pontus Aberg
PONTUS ABERG

Rating: 71.1#104 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 80.1#9 C

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 74.2#32 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.14#16 FL1
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Rating: 73.8#42 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 78.4#15 C

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 77.8#19 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 76.66#4 FL2
Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 73.8#41 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.2#140 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.0#57 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.67#10 FL3
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.6#55 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 71.1#144 C

Nic Petan
NIC PETAN

Rating: 70.9#97 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.85#9 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 75.7#13 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.4#18 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 75.55#10 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.8#25 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.8#57 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.79#12 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.8#73 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.2#90 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.00#22 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Andrew Mangiapane
ANDREW MANGIAPANE

Rating: 71.5#94 LW

Elias Lindholm
ELIAS LINDHOLM

Rating: 75.6#31 C

Tobias Rieder
TOBIAS RIEDER

Rating: 69.3#118 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 72.16#31 FL1
Dillon Dube
DILLON DUBE

Rating: 73.3#62 LW

Sean Monahan
SEAN MONAHAN

Rating: 75.5#34 C

Mikael Backlund
MIKAEL BACKLUND

Rating: 73.4#78 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 74.06#15 FL2
Milan Lucic
MILAN LUCIC

Rating: 70.0#127 LW

Derek Ryan
DEREK RYAN

Rating: 72.8#99 C

Johnny Gaudreau
JOHNNY GAUDREAU

Rating: 75.6#21 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.82#8 FL3
Zac Rinaldo
ZAC RINALDO

Rating: 69.8#132 LW

Mark Jankowski
MARK JANKOWSKI

Rating: 70.0#172 C

Michael Frolik
MICHAEL FROLIK

Rating: 71.3#91 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.38#23 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Mark Giordano
MARK GIORDANO

Rating: 77.5#5 LD

Rasmus Andersson
RASMUS ANDERSSON

Rating: 73.9#29 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 75.73#8 DL1
Noah Hanifin
NOAH HANIFIN

Rating: 73.7#44 LD

Travis Hamonic
TRAVIS HAMONIC

Rating: 73.7#34 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.69#14 DL2
T.J. Brodie
T.J. BRODIE

Rating: 75.3#18 LD

Michael Stone
MICHAEL STONE

Rating: 71.7#82 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.50#7 DL3

Does listing a line first make it the first line, because that Flames line is a doozy. It makes me feel a lot better about 1st line LW Pontus Aberg.

Here are 5 things to watch for…

1. Welcome back to the Matthews and Tavares goal era

I missed those points, and they are back. That is good. The Hyman, Tavares, and Marner line has been clicking like it always has. Nylander and Matthews are on track as well, but it’s debatable that Pontus Aberg adds anything to that line.

The Flames don’t exactly have stellar goaltending, but they make up for that with a solid blueline and quite a few sensible forwards to help out. It may not be a free for all like Vancouver for these two lines, but St. Louis was supposed to be a challenge and it didn’t slow the Leafs down then.

2. Cody Ceci is good now?

Not really, but he’s nicely sheltered on the third pairing with Travis Dermott, who is far too good to be a third pairing defender. The fact that between the two of them they easily outmatch their competition in most situations has helped Cody Ceci’s numbers, and he’s capable of making the right decision against less skilled competition.

Hopefully this pairing continues, as it can even be seen as Dermott building the experience of being responsible for doing the heavy lifting when he’s on the ice.

3. Alex Kerfoot is MIA

Kerfoot hasn’t scored a goal since November 5th. He only has one point since then as well. His expected goals percentage favours the opposition as well at 48.65, though his Corsi is still on the positive side of 50, at 51.51%, although still under performing compared to his teammates.

Additionally, Ilya Mikheyev’s numbers have stalled when the two play together, and while Mikheyev enjoyed a nice stretch of time with Tavares, the reunion with Kerfoot isn’t producing much.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this third line, as it seems to consist of 3 skilled players, none of whom have any interest in playing together as a unit. Will they turn it around or will this be the next line to be shaken up.

4. Andersen fatigue watch

Tonight marks the first time this season that Freddie Andersen has started six games in a row, as well as this will be his 10th start in the past 11 games. That’s a lot of hockey for a goaltender that many of us thought could benefit from a lighter workload this season.

The Leafs do have a more goaltender friendly schedule in January and can benefit from their starter helping them get back on track right now, so I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of Hutchinson, although Keefe was leaning towards starting him once on the Western Canadian trip, and you could make the case that tonight in Calgary makes more sense than Saturday night in Edmonton.

5. Team Toughness Tested

It’s very likely that a team that dresses Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic, and Zac Rinaldo will play a physical game against the Leafs. How the Leafs match against that will be interesting, as most of the team toughness questions evaporated after Mike Babcock left, and the Leafs have simply thrived on doing their thing instead of trying to be something they are not.

Ideally the Leafs just take the powerplays they’ll be given by the Flames and do what they do best with them.

Game time is at 9PM ET and can be seen on TSN 4 in Ontario or on Sportsnet West in the prairies.