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Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #48: 5 Things to Watch for against the Flames

The Leafs picked up a much needed win against noted win donors the New Jersey Devils the other night, but face a bit more a legitimate challenge tonight in the Calgary Flames. I mean, not really all that legitimate, they are decent by Pacific Division standards and Lucic in their lineup, but still the difficulty level is going up a little.

The Leafs are in a win/win situation in that if they beat the Flames they get two points, but if they lose they put the Oilers and Canucks in a worse position. I think it’s important that we appreciate the silver linings regardless of the outcome.

The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Toronto’s last 7 games against Calgary. – OddsShark.com

LINEUPS

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.5#32 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 82.6#3 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.9#5 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.66#5 FL1
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.8#44 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 78.5#15 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.1#19 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 76.12#8 FL2
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 72.7#68 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.9#106 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.1#52 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.55#7 FL3
Dmytro Timashov
DMYTRO TIMASHOV

Rating: 71.4#91 LW

Tyler Gaudet
ADAM BROOKS

Rating: 72.0#105 C

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.2#113 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.21#13 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.6#69 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.4#17 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.50#27 DL1
Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 71.0#102 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.7#14 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.35#19 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 73.6#40 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.1#86 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.36#10 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Johnny Gaudreau
JOHNNY GAUDREAU

Rating: 77.2#14 LW

Sean Monahan
SEAN MONAHAN

Rating: 75.5#37 C

Mikael Backlund
MIKAEL BACKLUND

Rating: 73.1#75 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.25#17 FL1
Matthew Tkachuk
MATTHEW TKACHUK

Rating: 77.6#12 LW

Elias Lindholm
ELIAS LINDHOLM

Rating: 77.4#20 C

Andrew Mangiapane
ANDREW MANGIAPANE

Rating: 72.0#75 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.65#9 FL2
Milan Lucic
MILAN LUCIC

Rating: 70.0#116 LW

Derek Ryan
DEREK RYAN

Rating: 72.6#91 C

Dillon Dube
DILLON DUBE

Rating: 71.6#82 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.39#21 FL3
Zac Rinaldo
ZAC RINALDO

Rating: 68.3#134 LW

Tobias Rieder
TOBIAS RIEDER

Rating: 68.6#183 C

Sam Bennett
SAM BENNETT

Rating: 70.6#103 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 69.16#27 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Mark Giordano
MARK GIORDANO

Rating: 77.6#5 LD

T.J. Brodie
T.J. BRODIE

Rating: 74.7#22 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.16#6 DL1
Noah Hanifin
NOAH HANIFIN

Rating: 74.3#30 LD

Travis Hamonic
TRAVIS HAMONIC

Rating: 73.9#28 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.10#10 DL2
Oliver Kylington
OLIVER KYLINGTON

Rating: 69.9#115 LD

Rasmus Andersson
RASMUS ANDERSSON

Rating: 72.7#55 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 71.33#26 DL3

ZAC RINALDO?!?! I knew he was there, but every time I see it, I say “still?” Needless to say I expect big things from whoever is on the ice against the Flames bottom six.

Here are 5 things to watch for…

1. The “All-Star” Goalie Matchup

I don’t think anyone really buys into David Rittich or Frederik Andersen as All-Stars, but they will be and while it’s not on the same embarrassment level as making Mike Smith an All-Star or making Mike Smith an Olympic Gold Medalist, I wouldn’t exactly expect a goaltending duel to occur given that Andersen has been pulled in 2 of his last 4 games, and let in 3 goals in the 3rd period of the last game to an incredibly crappy Devils team.

2. Which defenseman would you take out for Liljegren?

Timothy Liljegren is a shiny new toy that many of us have an excessive amount of hope around. Presently he’ll be spending his second game sitting in the press box and nothing about the Leafs management/coaching situation leads me to believe he’ll spend a third game there. It will be interesting to see who gives Liljegren his opportunity, and given that Liljegren is a right shot, a bad night from Cody Ceci could lead to him finally being scratched for a night. Alternatively, the Leafs haven’t had any issue with scratching Marincin before and Sandin sitting buys a bit more decision time on the ELC contract sliding situation (they are going to burn it, by the way) so we’ll see if the Leafs defense step up their games to try and stay out of the press box.

3. The Top Prospects Game

Some of you may be choosing to watch the CHL Top Prospects game and flip back over to the Leafs game from time to time, others will do the reverse, and some of you are going to have a couple of screens going. Either way, even if the Leafs don’t have a pick in the first round, I can’t stress this enough, don’t sleep on the Prospects Game. It’s a fun way to get to know some of the players even if it isn’t the most telling of their true talents. At the very least it beats whatever the hell the panel is saying during intermission.

4. Leafs response to physical play

It’s easy (and fun) to laugh at players like Milan Lucic and Zac Rinaldo, but there is little doubt the Leafs struggle when they encounter physical teams. Throw Matthew Tkachuk and he’s elite agitation ability and the Leafs could have a tough night if they are pulled away from their skill game. Answering physicality with physicality isn’t really an option, so at best the Leafs can try and draw a few penalties out the experience or just be grateful for the time when Lucic and Rinaldo are on the ice and keep the puck moving so they aren’t pinned down by them.

5. GMs talking

Doesn’t it seem like these two teams are destined to make another trade together at some point? Leafs have been rumoured to be in on Hamonic since before my oldest kid was born, and the Flames need someone like Johnsson or Kapanen in their top six. While I’m not suggesting anything as exciting as these teams making a trade tonight, but it wouldn’t hurt to form some eye test opinions on players like Hamonic or Brodie.

Gametime is 7PM ET on TSN4 (or Sportsnet West if you are in Alberta) and if you are so inclined the CHL Top Prospects game is on Sportsnet, also starting at 7PM because why have staggered start times that would potentially let us watch both?