Leafs/Flames Preview


    The Toronto Maple Leafs are now back from Chicago to host the Calgary Flames at the ACC in Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start tonight, but Vesa Toskala must be credited with his strongest performance of the season.

    Toskala finished the game with 31 saves and a 0.911 SV% for the first time this season. It improved him to 0.904 SV% and a 3.42 goals against average in his last two games. He still currently sits with an 0.851 SV% and a 4.76 goals against average on the year, but he’s starting to slowly knock those numbers back into a respectable total.

    “Vesa had an outstanding night. There was nothing he could do on any of the goals,” Wilson said. “He made a dozen outstanding saves.”

    If Toronto can get consistency from this type of play out of the Finnish netminder, they could very well be in a comfortable position in which pressure is no longer put on the rookie goaltender. It will no longer be a case of “who gives us the best opportunity to win”, but rather “who deserves to play tonight.” That is a situation Brian Burke would also like to be in as the Trade Deadline inches its way closer.

    But tonight, the Leafs return from a respectable loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and are faced with another immediate challenge – the Calgary Flames. Fortunately, both teams played last night. The Flames lost a shootout battle with the Buffalo Sabres.

    Jarome Iginla leads the charge for the Calgary Flames as he has 11 points in his last 9 games. But the Flames, despite being 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, are struggling to score as of late. They have averaged just 2 goals a game in their last 6 matchups, but have won the majority of them. They execute a strong defensive game plan and pounce on the little mistakes their opponents make. Backed by Miikka Kiprusoff, who looks as stellar as ever, and the Flames have discovered their own recipe for success.

    Phil Kessel scored his 3rd and 4th goals last night. It made me wonder when I’ve ever seen someone on the Leafs shoot the way he can. He picks corners with ease and flies his way across the high slot. Kessel will be leading the Leafs offensive charge into the game tonight and hopefully he can add to his already impressive numbers of 4 goals, 2 assists and a +2 in 5 games this season.

    Kessel is a part of a lonely trio on the Leafs who do not sit in the minus column. Phil Kessel (2), Ian White (3) and Alex Ponikarovsky (5) are the only players on the Leafs who are a positive – to to speak. Toronto will continue to try and improve the teams +/- in their affair tonight.

    Team Comparison:

    Powerplay: TOR 3rd (24.3%), CGY 14th (20.3%)
    Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (71.8%), CGY 11th (82.4%)
    Faceoff % – TOR 23rd (48.4%), CGY 24th (48.1%)
    Average Shots For: TOR 5th (32.9), CGY 30th (25.6)
    Average Shots Against: TOR 22nd (31.1), CGY 19th (30.9)
    Average Goals For: TOR 21st (2.53), CGY 7th (3.12)
    Average Goals Against: TOR 29th (3.65), CGY 10th (2.59)
    5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 27th (0.71), CGY 5th (1.29)

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    Micheal A. Aldred