Calgary Flames @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 5 PM MT, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON
TV: ESPN+, TVAS, SNW - Radio: Sportsnet 960
Calgary Flames (14-13-3, 31 pts) - Toronto Maple Leafs (19-9-2, 40 pts)
It’s odd to mention the Maple Leafs as a “struggling” team when you look at their record and the fact that they are one of the top teams in the NHL this season, but that’s just what they are. Their once insurmountable lead in the North Division is down to two points with the Winnipeg Jets nipping at their heels. How did it come to this? Losses. Like, five of them in their last six. Toronto has stumbled lately with losses to Vancouver, Winnipeg and those stubborn Ottawa Senators and despite Calgary’s lopsided beating at the hands of the Oilers on Wednesday, the Flames aren’t an easy out.
Since Darryl Sutter has taken over the Flames have gone 3-1-0 and become a tough team to play against. One game not withstanding, Calgary has buttoned up their defence, played smart with the puck on their sticks and done much better with taking stupid penalties. And in three of the four contests with Toronto so far the Flames have lost by a lone goal all three times. Their one victory? A 3-0 shut out masterpiece by David Rittich back on February 22.
Speaking of David Rittich, it’s probably time the Flames backup gets some time between the pipes. He hasn’t played since March 4th, a 7-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators, as it’s been all Jacob Markstrom since Sutter has taken over. But Rittich’s numbers against Toronto certainly should get him a look. He’s 1-0-1 in two games in 2021, but his Save% and GAA are out of this world. In two starts, Rittich has amassed a Save% of .972 and a GAA of 0.99. Short of pitching two shutouts it doesn’t get much better than that. Combine that with Jacob Markstrom’s VERY below average performance on Wednesday (7 GA on 30 SOG) and it would stand to reason that David Rittich might be the better option tonight. But we all know Sutter likes to ride his #1, so who knows?
What we do know is Calgary’s PP units have to figure out what is going wrong. In their last four games the Flames have gone 2-12 with the man advantage and it’s not even about scoring goals at this point. Their zone entries have been sloppy, they look disorganized and shots have been at a premium. Any time a team gives you an extra skater you HAVE to take advantage of that and Calgary is failing miserably at that aspect of their game.
As for the Maple Leafs, don’t expect this dry spell to carry on for a long time. Prior to this hiccup their biggest losing skid was two games back in mid February and then it was back to all systems go. Even with a losing streak like they are currently mired in, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews have combined for four goals and six assists in their last five games. The Flames let Edmonton’s top players explode Wednesday night and if they want to walk away with two points Friday night, they’re going to have to tighten things up.
Starting Goalies (E=Expected, C=Confirmed)
Flames: Rittich (E): 3-5-1, 2.93 GAA, .904 SV%
Leafs: Andersen (E): 13-7-2, 2.85 GAA, .900 SV%
Flames: Goals- Gaudreau (12), Points- Lindholm (27), PIM- Tkachuk (28), Save%- Rittich (.904)
Leafs: Goals- Matthews (21), Points- Marner (39), PIM: Bogosian (45). Save%- Campbell (.951)
What’s Happening With The Opposition?
Toronto Maple Leafs Coverage: Pension Plan Puppets
Last Time Out
Calgary Flames 3 - Edmonton Oilers 7
Toronto Maple Leafs 3 - Ottawa Senators 4
Players To Watch
Dillon Dube (C): 4 points in last 5 games
Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares (C): 5 points in last 5 games