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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. MAPLE LEAFS

The red-hot Flames look to keep the good times going with an all-Canadian clash at the 'Dome

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (17-12-4) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (15-13-4)

7 p.m. MT | TV: Sportsnet West | RADIO: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

2019-20 Season Series: 0-0-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (27)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (14)

Maple Leafs:

Points - Auston Matthews (34)
Goals - Matthews (19)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 18.4% (16th) / PK - 83.6% (10th)

Maple Leafs:

PP - 20.4% (12th) / PK - 77.0% (26th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:    

Shot Attempts: 50.84% (11th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.40% (19th)

Maple Leafs:

Shot Attempts: 52.95% (5th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.11% (20th)

 

Video: Setting up tonight's tilt with the visiting Leafs

 


1. US

The Flames are coming off a colossal 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday to extend their season-long winning streak to six, and pull to within two points of first place in the Pacific.

Zac Rinaldo and Michael Frolik led the way with a goal and an assist each, while Johnny Gaudreau , Sean Monahan and Milan Lucic also found the scoresheet. Meanwhile, Cam Talbot was absolutely phenomenal between the pipes, coolly turning aside 46 of 48 shots to pick up his third victory of the season.

"It's huge, not only for me, but for the team moving forward so they can feel confident in me whenever I'm in there," said Talbot, who now has a .907 save percentage on the year. "So, these last two games … were big statement games for us. It brought us two points out of first place in our division, so we needed these wins on the road in two tough barns, and against two really good teams.

"The way we've been playing, I'm a product of what's in front of me."

Back on Nov. 21, following a 5-0 road loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Flames were 10-12-3, and eight points back of their division-leading rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. With points in all eight since, including a straight half-dozen in the win column, the Flames have closed that gap considerably.

And fast.

"A really good road trip here for us," said interim boss Geoff Ward, who remains undefeated behind the bench. "But I think more importantly, the guys are getting more and more confidence in our process and how we need to play.

"You can see the buy-in on the bench - they're playing for each other.

"The thing I like about it most is that everybody who was in our lineup in these last two games made an impact and had a hand in us winning them."

Matthew Tkachuk was not in the lineup on Tuesday after suffering an upper-body injury in the win over the Colorado Avalanche the previous night. However, it does not sound overly serious, and the winger is a game-time decision this evening.

David Rittich will get the start in goal.

 

Video: "We tell everybody, you have to try and score"

 

2. THEM

John Tavares had a three-point night as the Maple Leafs rolled past the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 Tuesday in the second of a four-game road trip.

The Toronto captain scored the second and third goals for the visitors, and assisted on the game's opening strike, 1:45 into the second period, off the stick of Auston Matthews.

Zach Hyman added the other, and Frederik Andersen made 38 saves - including stops on three (yes, three!) breakaways in the third period alone.

With the win, the Leafs improved to 6-3-0 in the Sheldon Keefe era.

"A lot of stuff happened pretty quickly out there," Keefe told Kevin Woodley of NHL.com. That's the fastest game that I've been a part of in terms of the speed and the competitiveness overall in the game, start to finish.

"It's going to take us a little time to really process everything that happened, but I felt when we got there, we were able to make good on the chances, and that's a good sign."

While the Leafs have been the envy of many for their offensive firepower, goaltending continues to be THE story of the season so far.

Andersen has been lights out, allowing only five goals in his last three appearances, with save percentages of .931, .929, and .974, respectively.

Overall, the big Dane is 15-7-3 on the year, with a .921 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.

"Unbelievable saves," Matthews - the team's leading goal-getter - told Woodley. "He's been great for us. Ideally, you probably wouldn't want to see him make five breakaway saves in one game, but that's a credit to him.

"He's dialed in."

Added Keefe: "We know if we make a mistake, he'll be there. It's great he was up to the challenge. Those were game-changing saves."

 

Video: Tavares and Matthews on tonight's tilt

 

3. US VS. THEM

This is the first of two meetings between these two Canadian rivals, and the only to be played at the Scotiabank Saddledome this season.

Last year, the Flames went 1-1 in the two-game set, winning 3-1 in Calgary on Oct. 28, 2018, before dropping a 6-2 decision in T.O. on Mar. 4, 2019.

GTA native Sean Monahan led the Flames in head-to-head scoring, notching three points (1G, 2A) in the season series. Three others - Elias Lindholm, Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau - had two-point totals, and four others had singles.

Mitch Marner led the way for the Leafs, scoring once and adding three helpers in the two games.

The Flames are 4-5-0-1 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 63-59-12-2 against the Buds, including a 42-25-5-0 mark at home.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: On Tuesday, Geoff Ward coached in his 900th NHL game, after spending seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins, three an assistant with the New Jersey Devils, and two right here in Calgary, where he's held the title of associate coach and interim head coach. Ward is also the new owner of the Flames franchise record for the most consecutive wins to start a head-coaching tenure with six. "It flies by," laughed Ward following the win over the Coyotes on Tuesday. "It's a nice marker, for sure. You never think when you start that you're going to be around that long. You hope you're there for 50 (games), and then you hope you're there for 100. And then you hope you're there for more than two years. It's the way the business is. I've been lucky enough to keep finding ways to fool them." … THAT: Since Ward took over the head-coaching duties, the Flames' depth has been at the forefront. Derek Ryan , Milan Lucic, Zac Rinaldo, Michael Frolik and Dillon Dube had a combined 19 points in 26 games prior to the coaching change. Since then, those players have combined for 23 points in six games. … THE OTHER: With his goal on Tuesday to record point No. 389 of his NHL career, Sean Monahan passed Joe Mullen for the 15th-most points in franchise history. Monahan is currently riding a seven-point streak and a four-game goal streak.

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Michael Frolik

Frolik has goals in back-to-back games, and is coming off one of his best efforts of the season on Tuesday. In 13:09 of ice time, the veteran had two points (1G, 1A), two shots, and ended the night with the Calgary Police Service cowboy hat as the team's Player of the Game.

Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews

It goes without saying that you need to 'keep an eye on' the 2016 first-overall pick, but Matthews has taken his game to another level this year.

He's currently on pace for 49 goals and 84 points - which would be a new career in both categories.

The 22-year-old enters the game with three goals in his last two outings.

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