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Flames vs Leafs - Recap

The good times keep rolling as Mason Raymond returned and Sven Baertschi was exiled back to some place in America with a weird name. I think it's called Adirondack? Whatever, the point is tonight was a Flames game on TSN and we should remember the good times of seeing hockey on TSN.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
After falling to the San Jose Sharks on the weekend, the Flames were hunger to win one in Toronto. Given how well they've played lately to the chagrin of many including myself and the desire to avoid back to back losses in regulation this season we knew would be in for a treat. The Flames dressed a non-enforcer roster tonight which was the first in awhile. Brandon Bollig got to eat ACC food and question his existence while Michael Ferland stayed in the line-up ahead of him.

First Period -

Moments into the period, the top line of Curtis Glencross, Sean Monahan, and David Jones pushed into the offensive zone creating a bit of pressure for the Maple Leafs. Given each team's inconsistencies and the Flames inability at times to do this off the opening draw, it was nice to see. James Van Riemsdyk would get the first shot on net for the Leafs on a quality shot but a majority of the period, the Flames would be the better team.

Calgary's third line of a newly rejuvenated Mason Raymond, Paul Byron, and Markus Granlund would be the beginning of a strong first period for the Flames. Their persistence and ability to force their way through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone was a beautiful sight. Even Deryk Engelland initially contributed to doing nice things by punishing David Booth early on.

Then came the Johnny Gaudreau show. A show that many Toronto fans had been waiting to see all season. Gaudreau riding a four game point streak (2 goals, 4 assists) would dictate play considerably allowing a series of strong scoring chances for the line. Kris Russell would make a strong defensive play blocking a Toronto shot, while Johnny Hockey continued to steal the show early on. A turnover followed by a strong zone entry from Jiri Hudler lead to a fantastic pass from Gaudreau to Jooris. Unfortunately, though the Leafs didn't appear to have shown up yet; Jonathan Bernier did. His strong play through the mid-way point of the period elevated his club.

After another dazzling zone entry and scoring chance, the Leafs battled back. Shortly after Joffrey Lupul's strong skating up the ice past Ladislav Smid, gave him the chance to throw the puck on net. Peter Holland would put home the garbage giving the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead. David Clarkson would then take what appeared to be a dumb interference call. Nothing would really come of the play beyond former Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf slashing Gaudreau and not being called on it. The Flames wouldn't generate much on the man-advantage, but they continued to enter the zone strong and generate more shot attempts.

The period would end with a series of TJ Brodie chances and nothing culminating just yet in the Flames favour.

Flames out-shot the Leafs 13-8.

Second Period -

Immediately into the second period, Toronto was strong into the zone. It would be the theme of this period as the Flames  had immeasurable difficulty getting out of their own end to generate anything. It wouldn't get any easier as David Jones would take a high-sticking call on Phaneuf. The penalty kill would start off fairly well though. The usage of Byron while down a man has been an improvement at times despite our disappointing PK%. Late on the Toronto PP, JVR would strike following Nazem Kadri brilliantly out-waiting Ladislav Smid, allowing the young centre to pass it perfectly to JVR to make it 2-0.

It would be more than eight minutes into the period before the Flames registered their first shot of the period. This would continue to be a problem as the game continued. Toronto's ability at sustaining shot attempts, entering the zone, and causing issues in the Calgary defensive zone really ended up being the only thing to happen this period (besides the goal).

Eventually late in the period. the newly formed 4th line of Matt Stajan, Michael Ferland, and Lance Bouma managed to foster a quick flurry of chances in close. All of it came from those "character building" areas around the ice. You know, deep in the corners, digging for pucks, hard on the body? All that intangible crap, well it worked for a bit. Stephane Robidas would take a delay of game penalty sending the Flames back to the PP. It wouldn't generate anything and the period would end with the Leafs continuing to dictate play heading into the third.

Shots 13-4 in the period, 17-21 for the Leafs in the game.

Third Period -

Given how abysmal Calgary played in the second, it would natural for them to do what they always do in the third: do stuff. They would be a little delayed at first doing "stuff". Phil Kessel and questionable first-line centre Tyler Bozak stormed in on a great scoring chance. Our glorious god-king captain Mark Giordano countered two two great shots from the point to keep the Flames offensive in it; hoping for a goal.

The Leafs would be hit with a too many men call sending Calgary back on another man advantage. Although it started out a little questionable, it would lead into one of their finer PPs lately. A strong zone entry lead to a fantastic Dennis Wideman shot. Mason Raymond's return was much needed as the speed he brought to the game helped immensely at times, specifically on the PP. Finally, Giordano fed a streaking Granlund a beauty pass which he put in the back of the net. The flashy goal slightly reminiscent of the goal he scored against Ottawa was his 4th of the year and put the Flames back within a goal.

Deryk Engelland would take a penalty leading to a strong penalty kill for the Flames. They generated a few great chances but couldn't solve Bernier. The teams would continue to exchange chances, with the Flames doing whatever it took to draw even. Unfortunately, they couldn't make it a 2-2 game. Hartley pulled Hiller late in the game, with the Flames buzzing Kessel would make it 3-1. Persistent to draw even and channel the "comeback kid mantra", they would pull Hiller again. Despite trying to make it 3-2, Mike Santorelli would end it 4-1.

Flames fall 4-1 to Toronto.
Shots 15-8 in the 3rd, 32-29 for the Flames in the game.

Flame of The Game

Johnny Hockey. He was beyond words at times tonight. His ability to drive play and possession, his passing, his vision, and his hockey instincts are remarkable. He did everything possible tonight except put it in the net. Hartley justly rewarded him with more ice time, clocking in at 18:21. He only had 1 shot on net but he played one hell of a game. This may have been one of his best games of his rookie season. Sure he was a -2 but plus/minus is a broken metric anyway.

Stray Observations -
  • What the fuck was Byron doing there with that pass late in the third leading to an EN goal? He wasn't doing too bad until then.
  • Josh Jooris on that line with Hudler and Gaudreau is damn impressive to watch, right? Keep them together forever. They were causing chaos for the Leafs all night and I'm fairly certain Randy Carlyle questioned his existence tonight.
  • David Jones is healthy and that means he's playing well. He looks leaner, more in shape, and more capable of playing a top-six role. I've doubted him for so long and I'll gladly accept I'm wrong about him if he puts up numbers.
  • The top line wasn't too bad tonight. Their play was largely overshadowed by the 2nd line for sure. Monahan's game continued to get more and more complete as the season has gone on. Hopefully he can continue strong two-way play for the rest of the season. I don't care necessarily about numbers but I want to see him emerge as a top young centre in the league that you can rely on.
  • Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are damn near unstoppable at even strength. Ari will break that down tomorrow but they are clearly the driving force of the team.
  • To stick with Brodie, his skating ability might be one of the most underrated things the league is noticing. His fluidity and ability to break out at any moment is spectacular.
  • Matt Stajan isn't getting much TOI but his play on the 4th line with Lance Bouma and Ferland is nice. If we can roll four lines when Joe Colborne and [eventually] Mikael Backlund returning, we may have a great look at the team of the future. Stajan's experience and actual abilities help the line out so much that this has been a long time coming.
  • Smid and Engelland's gaffes on the Holland goal. I choked on my soda when I watched the reply. Just awful. They got better as the night improved but we need more reliability on that pairing.
What if...

We kept Matt Stajan on the 4th line? It works for now. He's only been back a couple of games and his play on that line has helped the players around him immensely. It also helps having a capable 4th line out there WITH the disaster of a pairing that is Smid/Engelland or Smid/Diaz or Engelland/Diaz. It helps and maybe we do it for awhile until Granlund or Jooris has a rough game? Or at least until Backlund returns.

The Flames take on the Buffalo McDavids Sabres on Thursday at 5PM MST. We'll have your coverage then and stick around for Ari's stats recap tomorrow. The Flames finish up out east on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then on Sunday take on the Blackhawks. We have two very tough games after Buffalo so we'll see how well the team plays in Buffalo to get an idea of the roster situation for Friday.