Tonight a great Canadian NHL matchup will take place in Calgary, when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Cowtown to face off against the Calgary Flames.
The Flames are coming off their longest road trip of the season, and will start a three-game homestand Wednesday night, while Toronto is in the middle of theirs, coming down to town after beating Calgary’s inter-province rivals, the Edmonton Oilers last night, 4-2.
Toronto will be coming off a high after three of their players last night broke into double digits in scoring. Calgary on the other hand lost 2-1 in overtime to the New York Islanders on Monday night and are now 10-13-2 on the season. Despite that record they finished their six-game road trip a respectable 3-2-1.
The three wins they got on the road were recorded at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary which means they are working hard to improve their home record. Currently they are the worst in the league with a 3-7 record at home, and that’s something Calgary will want to remedy tonight. Flames captain Mark Giordano told media that record has to improve,
“We’ve got to get some big wins at home,” said Giordano. The test doesn’t get easier as they host the Minnesota Wild on Friday and then the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. “We haven’t been good enough at home.”
So tonight should be a good chance to improve their home record, plus over the coming weeks if they play their game and stick to a stingy defence on home ice. Six of their next eight, and seven of their next 11 games are in Calgary, so hopefully for the Flames some home cooked meals will give them the edge they need.
“We have to be positive coming back home here,” said Flames goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 25 saves to steal a point against the Islanders. Sean Monahan was also positive after snapping a five-game goalless drought in New York when he scored his sixth goal of the season, in the last period.
“It’s nice to put one in there, but at the end of the day we’re here for the two points and we got one out of it,” Monahan said. “We’re got to find a way to get the job done. Unfortunately we didn’t, but we’ve got to bounce back here at home.”
Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan was pleased to see Monahan finally find the back of the net, and so he’ll be giving the 22-year-old center more ice time so he can build off of it.
“I think that’ll be a little bit of a weight off his shoulders,” Gulutzan said. “You know how goal scorers are. They can be streaky and I think that was a big goal for him.”
Strangely enough, while the Flames have to make strides at home, the same can be said for what the Maple Leafs have to do on the road. They started off right last night with a 4-2 win over the Oilers in Edmonton. The Leafs are 10-8-4 but have a dismal 2-5-4 road record. This road trip out West should help the young stars gel and give them a sense of commraderie yet to be experienced in the young squads’ NHL experience.
“It probably wasn’t our prettiest win, but we’re very happy to kick this road trip off with two points,” said Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly to reporters after the win. That victory snapped Toronto’s three-game losing streak on teh road. In the friendly atmosphere of the Air Canada Centre, where they have an impressive 8-3-0 record.
Even though the team has a sub-.500 record on the road, Rielly was looking forward to Toronto’s trip out West to play the Oilers, Flames and Vancouver Canucks, who they’ll faceoff against on Saturday night at the Rogers Arena.
“I just really look forward to it,” Rielly told media. “When the league releases our schedule, that’s the first thing I look for — when we go out west. It’s home. I spent a fair bit of time on the Prairies.”
Rielly was born in Vancouver and played three seasons for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League before going pro in 2013. “I like going on the road in general,” Rielly said. “We have a chance to play some huge games on the road, try to get some points and improve our road record.”
The main matchup to watch for is Mark Giordano vs. Mitch Marner. His hometown team should inspire captain Giordano, whose team has not had a good start this year. Now that the Oilers game is over the talk about Auston Matthews taking on fellow No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid is over and the focus will go back on Marner, who is currently battling for the NHL lead in rookie points and will probably be named rookie of the month for November.
Toronto will probably have Jhonas Enroth in goal who has not been stellar, he had rebound trouble in New Jersey last week and was one of the reasons the Leafs lost their lead in the game and had to settle for an overtime point. If the Flames put Brian Elliott in over Chad Johnson, he’ll want to reverse his seven straight losses that were caused by a basic lack of offence.
That’s why the Flames will have to ignite their powerplay, they are currently the NHL’s worst performing power play operation, with 10.4% effectiveness. On the road, the Leafs went into Edmonton at almost 30%, so that’s bad news for Calgary’s PK group who also has not been killing penalties effectively.
Calgary will have to get more goals, since they have won seven one-goal games, compared to the Leafs’ three. Toronto scores early and often, and is getting better protecting leads, so Calgary has to shut them down. How? They’ll have to rely on defenceman Dougie Hamilton who leads Calgary with 10 assists, and was its highest scorer against the Leafs last season with three points in two games, to lead the march, score then shut it down.
Can they do it? The Leafs just look too hot, and should put out the Flames.