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Toffoli’s Tallies: Winger Hasn’t Scored 5-on-5 But Deserves Patience After Hot Start




Tyler Toffoli has yet to score at even strength. Not that the Calgary Flames care all that much.

With three goals and five points through the first five contests, Toffoli has helped the Flames to an impressive 4-1 record. It’s a fine line between that and 3-2. About the thickness of Toffoli’s blade, which sliced the Carolina Hurricanes’ hopes of leaving Calgary with the extra point on Saturday.

Toffoli’s second game-winner of this young season came at 4:30 of overtime — his first shift in the bonus round. Sent over by the speedy Rasmus Andersson, the puck barely tickled Toffoli’s stick before the winger whacked it into the far side of the ’Canes net. It set the Saddledome on fire. Head coach Darryl Sutter just shrugged.

“He doesn’t need many chances,” Sutter said of Toffoli after the overtime. “I mean, Tyler’s game is about checking and skating.

“And when he touches the puck, usually something good happens.”

This season, those good things are wins.

Andersson did the leg work with his blistering rush up the boards, but Toffoli was the triggerman. Same with his powerplay deflection of a Nazem Kadri slapper in Game 1. The winning goal in the 5-3 victory over the Stanley Cup champions.

Not a whole lot to complain about.

Except, of course, the five-on-five goose-egg.

While the Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli trio has been effective together on the powerplay — with Kadri and Andersson typically rounding it out — they haven’t made the same impact at even strength.

Huberdeau has not been the primary assist for any of Toffoli’s goals so far. Andersson has two of them and Kadri the other.

And it’s not for a lack of trying. In fact, Sutter would probably prefer that Huberdeau take some more shots himself. He’s often forcing one of his ‘holy-s#!t-the-puck-is-on-my-stick’ passes to Toffoli and company.

The Kadri and the Kids line has been a force on the forecheck, and newcomer Nazem has opened the season with six points during a five-game streak in Calgary Flames silks. Even that impressive start has come with just two points at even strength.

But special teams is how the Flames have managed to turn games that looked like looming losses into victories.

The sample size is small, but they sit tied for eighth on the penalty kill with an 85.7 per cent success rate. On the powerplay, they’re connecting on 30 per cent of their opportunities — good for sixth best.

So as long as Huberdeau, Lindholm and Toffoli continue to move the needle in that area, patience prevails on the five-on-five chemistry.

“We’ve still got to play a little better five-on-five,” Andersson said of the entire Flames team. “But it was a huge win and something we’ll build on, for sure.”

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