Thanks to some puck luck and a strong performance from Jack Campbell between the pipes, the Leafs were able to come away with their second consecutive victory when they defeated the Flames by a score of 3-2 on Sunday. Auston Matthews referred to the contest as an “ugly game” with Toronto struggling to generate much offensive pressure but they don’t ask how, they ask how many, and the Leafs will be looking to stretch their winning streak to three games when they take on the Flames once again on Tuesday night.
For their part, the Flames will be looking to get back into the win column after having a mini two game winning streak of their own snuffed out by the Leafs the last time out. With just four games played, they have played less than any other team in the North Division to this point and will be hoping to start making good on some of the games they have in hand to put themselves in the conversation as one of the top teams in the division.
Perhaps fortunate to come away with a victory in what was mostly a listless effort, the Leafs will need to find a way to get back on track in the offensive end while maintaining their newfound defensive structure against a tough Flames team. The Leafs have been scoring enough to rack up five victories in their first seven contests but a lot of their production has come on the powerplay and they have rarely looked like the offensive juggernaut that we have grown accustomed to in recent years.
The team is still trying to find their way as they settle into a new system and while head coach Sheldon Keefe has to be pleased with how they have limited opposing scoring chances in the early part of the season, he knows that his group is capable of more offensively. The key for the Leafs will be finding that balance as the season progresses and some of these new forward lines develop greater chemistry.
There have been stretches in games where the Leafs have owned the puck in the offensive zone but they’ve had trouble converting those extended possessions into high danger opportunities. Going into Tuesday’s rematch with Calgary the Leafs sit fourth in the NHL with a 55.6 CF% at 5v5 but find themselves all the way down at 15th with a 50.2 xGF%. Getting off the perimeter and attacking the middle of the offensive zone, rather than settling for low danger shot attempts, will be an area of focus for Keefe’s group Tuesday night and moving forward.
For the Flames perspective, check out the game preview from our friends over at FlamesNation.com.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs player to watch: Ilya Mikheyev
Ilya Mikheyev has been absolutely flying as of late and though he has recorded just a single assist through the first seven games of the season, it feels like nothing more than a matter of time before the dam breaks. A bit of secondary scoring would go a long way towards remedying Toronto’s offensive struggles and if Mikheyev can start turning some of his rush opportunities into more dangerous scoring chances, he could be poised to break out at any time.
Flames player to watch: Matthew Tkachuk
Tkachuk drew the Leafs’ ire in the third period of Sunday’s game when he ended up on top of Jack Campbell in the crease after a net front scramble. Campbell was clearly shaken up on the play and though Tkachuk has claimed no ill intent, his reputation may prevent him from earning the benefit of the doubt in the Leafs’ locker room. A few choice words were exchanged at the conclusion of the last game and it will be interesting to see if the Leafs have anything else to say to Tkachuk on the matter when they see him again on Tuesday night.
“Just a classic thing to try & accuse me of there.”
— Tim and Sid (@timandsid) January 25, 2021
Leafs starting goaltender: Frederik Andersen
After a less than stellar beginning to the season, Andersen has been fantastic in his last three starts with a .938 SV% to go along with a 2-1-0 record. He gave the Leafs a chance in all three games and arguably stole a win for them against Edmonton on Friday night. Jack Campbell’s status is still up in the air after missing practice on Monday but he has been impressive in his two starts this season as well, and Andersen will need to continue his strong play as Campbell pushes for more playing time.
Update: Sheldon Keefe has confirmed that Jack Campbell will miss multiple weeks with a leg injury.
Flames starting goaltender: Jacob Markstrom
The Flames have yet to confirm Markstrom as their starter for Tuesday night and while they may be looking to get David Rittich his first action of the season, it feels more likely that their big offseason acquisition in Markstrom will once again man the crease for them in this one. Fresh off signing a six year, $36 million contract with Calgary in the offseason, Markstrom has earned his keep early on with a 2.26 GAA and .928 SV% through four games.
Tonight’s game will be on Sportsnet at 9:00pm EST.
(Statistics from Evolving-Hockey.com & EliteProspects.com)