Nazem Kadri is finding his groove at the right time, just when the Toronto Maple Leafs will need him the most.
In the last two games, Kadri finally grabbed his first goal of the season and then scored his second goal on Saturday night. Perhaps, Kadri facing Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets is all that he needed to finally get his first two goals of the season.
Before I continue, Kadri hasn’t been terrible. He has just had difficulty finding the back of the net. In 11 games played, he has registered 24 shots. He’s just been unlucky and now with Auston Matthews out of the lineup for roughly 15 games, he will likely see more ice-time.
While Kadri isn’t as dominant as Matthews, he’s still capable of scoring 30 goals and with the right line-mates can be a force to be reckoned with. Mike Babcock will most likely move Kadri up to the second line and he’ll likely work alongside Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen has been on fire and hopefully, he can continue his spectacular play with Kadri by his side.
Kadri has also been outstanding defensively and currently owns a 53.6 Corsi-for percentage (CF%). In addition, Babcock has featured Kadri in the defensive zone quite a bit. To date, he owns a 56.4 defensive zone start percentage (dZS%). While his dZS% is still a tad lower than last season, he has the third highest dZS% for Toronto Maple Leafs centremen. Par Lindholm and Frederik Gauthier both have a higher dZS%, but Lindholm hasn’t been used as a centre as of late and Gauthier has played in 8 games while Kadri has appeared in 11.
Aside from Kadri, the entire Toronto Maple Leafs squad needs to take a step up. With Matthews missing approximately 15 games, the Maple Leafs will need to get an offensive spark from their forward depth.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will play their first game without Matthews and they’ll take on the Calgary Flames.
After 11 games played, the Flames own a record of 5-5-1. Even though the Flames haven’t had a great start to the season, they own a solid 3.27 Goals For/Games Played. The main issue with Calgary is that their special teams units have been rather abysmal. At this point, the Flames own a 15.6 power-play percentage and a 71.8 penalty-kill percentage.
Even though the Flames’ special teams units aren’t great, they aren’t terrible defensively when playing 5v5. Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson are the only two Calgary defensemen that own a CF% under 50%. While they both own a CF% less than 50%, Hanifin isn’t far from the 50% mark and Andersson is still trying to find his groove. Last season, Andersson logged a 55.0 CF%. So, it’s just a matter of time before Andersson emerges.
From an offensive perspective, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano have been unstoppable. The Toronto Maple Leafs defensive core will have their hands full as they try to prevent these five offensive stars from an all-out Calgary stampede.
Lastly, the Flames goaltending situation has been a rough one. In 8 games played, Mike Smith has been awful. He currently owns a 3.91 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .869 Save Percentage (SV%). While Smith hasn’t been great, the Flames do have a solid backup sitting on their bench. Their backup, David Rittich has looked incredibly solid in five games this season.
To date, Rittich owns a 2.37 GAA and a .933 SV%. Perhaps, Bill Peters, the head coach of the Flames will roll with his hot hand and put Rittich in net tonight.
Prediction & Recap
While the Toronto Maple Leafs have lost Matthews for 4 weeks, the Maple Leafs offence is still outstanding and will likely have a great game tonight against Calgary. My prediction is that the Toronto Maple Leafs will defeat the Flames by a score of 6-3.
The game will start at approximately 7:05 PM EST and can be found on NHL Network in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada. Additionally, a Quebecois broadcast can be found on TVAS.
stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com