Game 57 Preview: Syrup For All

The widely hated Toronto Maple Leafs come to town tonight for their second match of the year against the Flames, who are coming off of an improbable victory against the Canucks.

The Leafs started out the season very well; as you will all recall they led the league in points for a period of time. Phil Kessel has kept up his torrid pace and he's dragging Joffrey Lupul with him-while coach Ron Wilson has done quite a good job in protecting his top line from first-tier competition, their overall success is likely linked to an amazing on-ice SH% of over 11%, about 3 percentage points above the league average.

Pariah Dion Phaneuf has had a great season thus far, and while the numbers have come down a bit in recent weeks, he's turning out to be the possession guy many envisioned him to be, with a +4.8 Corsi rate despite a pretty close to even zone start, bad luck and the highest Corsi RelQComp on the team. I said when he was traded in 2010 that the Flames would regret it, and after spending that money they saved by trading him on players such as Kotalik, Stajan, Hagman and Babchuk I would look to be right.

Two young players for the Leafs-James Reimer and Luke Schenn-have been struggling quite a bit this season. For Reimer, it's been mostly bad luck-starting out with the concussion-like symptoms suffered from a elbow by Brian Gionta and has continued with a awful PKSV%. His EVSV% is still solid though, so there isn't much to worry about there. Schenn, however, has poor underlying numbers. Of course, by "poor", I mean horrifically bad. He has a CorsiRel of -8.9, but plays easy comp and has the highest PDO in the league. Comparables have shown it takes a while for shutdown guys to mature, but it's got to be disappointing for Leafs fans to see what they're seeing right now.

In case you missed it, Mikael Backlund will be out 4-6 weeks, joining the likes of Curtis Glencross, David Moss, Lee Stempniak et al in the infirmary ward. As a result, the Flames minor league affiliate have signed Hugh Jessiman to help out with the call-up depleted lineup. Scott Hannan may also miss tonight's game, and while he has sucked big time he's still better then Anton Babchuk, who would draw in instead if Hannan can't go.

Oh, yeah...Tom Kostopoulos is on the second line. If the Leafs can't find someway to beat the Flames tonight then they don't deserve to be in the playoffs.

Players To Watch

Tom Kostopoulos-Over/Under on the amount of shifts it takes for him to be kicked off the second line? I'm saying 2 and I'm taking the under. You can stop watching him after this happens, by the way.

Phil Kessel-An absolute dynamo with the puck.

Lastly...

I feel as though this is a "must-win" game for the Flames, but they are just so injury-depleted right now my expectations are ground-level. Doesn't help that they weren't exactly "elite" pre-injurypocalypse 2012.

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