LGD – Game 14: Leafs @ Flames – “Who are they?”

After a fine performance against the Oilers a night ago and leaving the city in ruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs head south for a Wednesday night showdown against the Calgary Flames, a rough-and-tumble, quick, exciting team that launched out of the gate and defied preseason expectations. They’ve risen all the way to 5-4-2 after a lovely start and are 6th place in the Pacific Division.

Okay, maybe their start was a little less hot than it seemed. The Flames were forced into keeping Sean Monahan, the sixth overall pick from last June who was producing when the team had to make a decision on whether to keep him around. There’s some twisted voodoo going on in Calgary—between 2010 and 2012 the team finished with 90, 94, and 90 points and failed to make the playoffs each season. They were the poster boy team for winning not enough games to make the playoffs, but too many good games to land a decent draft pick.

So far this season, the Flames are on pace for 89 points.


  Leafs Flames
Corsi Close % 43.5% (29th) 46.8% (24th)
5v5 GF/60 2.52 (12th) 2.58 (11th)
5v5 GA/60 2.02 (10th) 2.93 (27th)
PDO 1.041 (2nd) .993 (18th)
  Leafs Flames
5v4 GF/60 9.16 (6th) 6.85 (16th)
5v4 SF/60 57.5 (11th) 40.3 (28th)
4v5 GA/60 3.82 (4th) 9.58 (29th)
4v5 SA/60 66.5 (27th) 46.9 (7th)
5v5 Penalty Diff -22 E

Figures from Extra Skater

Blah blah blah shot differentials don’t tell you anything Cam blah blah blah haven’t you ever watched a game blah blah blah. I think that this point I’m posting the numbers for the benefit of looking at the other team, because even though Lanny MacDonald accidentally spat on a gypsy in the summer of 1989 and she cursed the team by damning them to perpetual mediocrity for the next six centuries, the Flames, like 27 other teams in the NHL, have nice, normal PDOs each year and as a result, their blog commentariat doesn’t fill up with snark every pre- and-post-game.

What to learn about the Flames? Well, they’re slightly better than the Oilers, but not by much. The rest of the Pacific Division is exceptionally good to start the season, with as little as three and as many as five (either Phoenix, Anaheim or Vancouver are due to out themselves as frauds at any minute) excellent teams, but the Alberta teams have sort of lagged behind. At least the Flames haven’t rolled over dead to start the season and even though their record is pretty unimpressive when extrapolated over 82 games, they’ve scored a tonne of goals and have been exciting to watch. Their goaltending has been off and on, hurting their penalty kill (you can see they’re 7th in shots against and 29th in goals against) and they do give up a tonne of goals at even strength as well.

Basically, this has the indication of a game that the Leafs could also out-shoot any problems they might have, as they did yesterday.


No skate today, but we’ll assume it’s the same as last night’s:

James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – David Bolland – David Clarkson
Carter Ashton – Jay McClement – Joffrey Lupul
Frazer McLaren – Trevor Smith – Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly – Cody Franson
Paul Ranger – Jake Gardiner

No points yet for David Clarkson, but the Leafs have out-attempted the opposition 47-43 with Clarkson on the ice so he’s at least moving play in the right direction. The only other Leaf that’s played this year that is in the black is Carter Ashton. Since Frazer McLaren’s return, by-the-by, the Leafs have been out-attempted 5-23 with him on the ice. He is basically the worst thing ever, and because I pointed this out, he’ll probably score a goal tonight.


Daily Faceoff:

Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – David Jones
Michael Cammalleri – Joe Colborne – T.J. Galiardi
Sven Baertschi – Sean Monahan – Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma – Mikael Backlund – Brian McGrattan

Chris Butler – T.J. Brodie
Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman
Shane O’Brien – Derek Smith

At the start of the season I would joke that the Flames shouldn’t even bother with nameplates. Nobody would know who three quarters of the team is anyway. Even in a hockey-mad city like Calgary, do you suppose any of these people get recognized in bars?

Imagine Derek Smith hitting on a cute girl in a bar. If you need to pull out your phone to Wikipedia your name and show her that, indeed, you are the pro-hockey player, you’re going to have a tough time. “No, I really DO play for the Flames. I’m wearing my jersey and everything. Would a fan really buy a ‘D. SMITH’ jersey?”

Joking aside, that second line has actually had some success together with Cammalleri back in the lineup. I say “some” because it’s not like they’ve done overly well, but relative to the rest of the group. Cammalleri’s group has been out-shot 32-36 in score-close situations since his return, fairly close to even. What’s notable is that the only healthy, regular player in the lineup in the black is actually T.J. Galiardi, picked up for peanuts this offseason.

The defence is going to hurt without Mark Giordano, as is my hockey pool team. Chris Butler is just about the worst in any stat category you can provide, so running him with the Flames current only competent two-way defenceman in T.J. Brodie should be fun. It would be like Fran Drescher singing harmonies on Beatles songs.

I will say though… problems aside (not only is Lee Stempniak’s injury a big loss, but think about how dire a situation your core would need to be in for Lee Stempniak to be a big loss) the Flames have been a tonne of fun to watch. This should be a good game.


The Leafs will get Karri Ramo tonight. No way to know on which Flames goalie is better since neither have an awful lot of NHL experience, but Ramo has played better than Joey MacDonald early in the season, racking up a .913 even strength save percentage (.899 for Joey) although the PK problems have generally been in front of Kari.

Leafs will go with Jonathan Bernier, which makes sense. Despite Reimer’s near perfect last two starts, he did play a game ago and faced a lot of third period rubber. Bernier’s save percentage is now 19 points below Reimer’s, so he needs to make up some ground tonight.

The Leafs and the Flames face-off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on TSN. Don’t forget to StreakCred.

Finally, food for thought?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • beloch

    Ramo has been waaaay better than MacDonald at even strength, but powerplay goals have dragged his total sv% down. He has mostly been played against the tougher teams the Flames have faced. Ovechkin lit him up in the first game he played, but on the rematch he had Ovechkin’s number and slammed the door on all 5 of his shots. It’s unclear how good Ramo really is, but he’s almost certainly better than MacDonald, even if that’s not exactly saying much.

    The Flames have actually had a shot at winning almost every game they’ve played this season. They’ve lost a few because Hartley kept playing MacDonald, who is absolutely horrible. They were also out-played by some very tough teams on their recent road-trip. That’s to be expected for a rebuilding team. They might be better than their record indicates.

    Tonight’s game should be interesting. The Flames are rebuilding and are icing a lot of rookies, plus an insanely bad bottom pair of defenders. The Leafs are a worse team according to all advanced stats. Is their performance last season and so far this season just statistical smoke and mirrors? Are both their goalies truly elite? Is their sh%, which is higher than even the Penguins right now, sustainable? When will their luck run out?

    There’s also a couple of good behind-the-scenes stories. Phaneuf’s is well known. Colborne, although he started the season getting 5 minutes per night on the goon squad,, has been getting a fairly decent amount of TOI with good line-mates lately. Will he step up to stick it to the team that gave up on him? Will Craig Conroy tonya-harding Phaneuf in the hallway before the game?

    At any rate, this should be a more entertaining game than beating up on an AHL squad.

  • The snark is probably a result of your repeated promises that the leafs will suck this season and how all the off season moves were horrible… I notice you don’t mention that when they’re winning but after 2 straight loses you were right back to it.

    Serious question: Do you still believe a collapse is coming or are you ready to admit that you might perhaps maybe be wrong?

    • I’ve mostly been picking the Leafs to be fairly average, and close to a playoff spot. I have not repeatedly promised the Leafs will suck this season, all I have repeatedly said is that teams that have success with high PDOs regress to the mean, and no team since 5v5 shot data has been available has managed to string together consecutive years with shooting percentages as high as the Leafs.

      That is what I have written forever, that seems to get misinterpreted by swaths of anonymous commenters on this website, some of whom curiously have the same IP addresses, but not names.


      Obviously, I have not even CONSIDERED the possibility I might be wrong, despite having written about it all August and September and have been reminded every day since March.

      • So you’re admitting that you may be wrong? woah.

        And I might have solved your mystery of the IP address, we have quite a group at the sports store that I work at who enjoy commenting on your articles 🙂 I personally always use the same name though

      • Cam I think I read somewhere that the Pat Quin Leafs put together multiple seasons of very high sh% and great goaltending, I could be wrong though. I also find interesting that some people take 6 seasons of data as gospel, and never really comment that this is a pretty small sample size in the grand scheme of things.

      • jasken

        Respectively, may I ask you consider that your quoting stats may come off as Glenn Healy commentary during a leaf game. Ok you are not as bad Glenn Healy but maybe you get the picture. And sure you can pull a Healy by saying you are only reporting the facts but don’t expect some of us to buy it completely. I apologize if I’m off base with my critique.

  • The Flames are a weird team. They probably shouldn’t be as good as they have been, but they’ve seemingly bought into Bob Hartley’s fore-checking system and taken advantage of opportunities provided to them by their opposition. Heck, they probably should have 2-3 more points than they do based on how they’ve played, which is crazy when you think about it.

  • STAN

    It’s pretty clear to me that even a 90% (like last night in Edmonton) Joffrey Lupul is more valuable with Raymond and Bolland than is David Clarkson.

    I’d even venture to say Clarkson is dragging those two down. He has no nose for the puck or the net, let alone being a mediocre-to-poor passer.

    A third line of Clarkson, Bozak and Ashton makes far more sense, pushing McClement to 4th line between McLaren and Orr, or even better, Leivo or Smith around to be inserted on the 4th line so McClement isn’t flanked by two thugs who have little other use.

    Leafs 5. Flames 3.

  • jasken

    Nice read Cam

    Looking forward to the game tonight should be interesting.

    @Jordan really think people should practice what they preach about 6 yrs funny thats exactly how many years Maurice and Wilson had them sh% under 10. Leafs had 11 years under 10% from 1990-2012 so to me it looks pretty balanced 11 years above 10% and 11 below makes elevated shooting % an argument that both sides cant win and agree to disagree.

  • Willi P

    Well the Leafs had two good players tonight for their team. Both were goalies. Bernier and Ramo. Bernier was fantastic for the Leafs, Ramo was fantastic for the Leafs.