The Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars both started the season 4-0-0, surprising the hockey world in being the last two undefeated team in the NHL. It was a mirage, of course, with both teams promptly falling back to where they were last season: The Stars, a little above .500, and the Leafs considerably worse than that.
After their hot start they lost 10 of their next 11 games (and you thought things were rough around here) before finally putting a a couple of wins together last week over Nashville and New Jersey.
While a cursory glance at the Maple Leaf roster might reveal many names recognizable to even a Dallas hockey fan, one you might not know is their most productive player this season: Clarke MacArthur. The left wings' 17 points (7-10-17) lead the Leafs, though, five of those goals came in their first four games.
The teams haven't met since last October when the Stars got a 4-3 overtime win on a tally by James Neal. Dallas won their last meeting in Toronto two years ago, 8-2 when James Neal recorded a hat trick. (James Neal likes to play these guys)
The action is at 6:00pm CST tonight on FS SW, so hurry home from work and join the GDT...
Here's the up and down odyssey that is the last 12 Stars games: Three losses at home, three wins at home, three losses on the road, three
wins OK, good efforts (2-0-1) at home.
Dallas has scored only three total goals in their last three road games, so getting on the sheet early would go a long way toward building some confidence, preferably with the power play which is 4% on the road.
Kari Lehtonen will start in net, of course.
The lines underwent an on-the-fly makeover in the second period on Saturday with Marc Crawford seemingly picking names out of a hat to generate some offense. When the dust settled the significant change was swapping Benn with Eriksson on the top two lines, leaving Loui to play on a line familiar to him a couple of season ago.
We also saw:
Ott, Sutherby, Burish.
Wandell, Ott, Burish
Neal, Burish, Wandell (generated a goal)
Petersen, Sutherby, Barch
Ott, Benn, Neal
I had hoped that half of a game with Benn and Neal on the same line with Richards would generate more than they did, but experiments in chemistry when the team is pressing are tough propositions. Eriksson worked well with Ribeiro and Morrow, however. With no practice on Sunday it's tough to say if they're planning on keeping any of these experiments together or not.
The Maple Leafs:
In June (and July) of 2009, the Leafs and Stars were engaged in a fight for the big Swede Jonas Gustavsson. CBA rules prevented money from being the deciding issue, leaving him to choose his most preferable situation. He went to Toronto.
With Marty Turco gone, one wonders if Gustavsson would be the starting netminder in Dallas this season. Toronto saw what he did last season and still felt compelled to acquire J.S. Giguere from the Ducks. Would Dallas have tried something similar, and how much more uncomfortable would things have been with Lehtonen AND Turco AND Gustavsson on the roster for a time last spring? Fortunately we'll never know and I think Stars fans are on-board with Kari, but it will be interesting to watch The Monster tonight and wonder what he would have looked like in a Stars uniform.
He's 2-4-0 this season but has a .919 save percentage.
The boys at Pension Plan Puppets are trying to figure out if the Leafs are the team that got shutout by Montreal, or the one that scored 4 PP goals and beat the Predators:
Either the wins over Nashville and New Jersey were nothing more than a flash in the pan, and not an indication that the multitude of Leafs problems have been solved; the poor PP and lack of offense. Or, Saturday's game against Montreal was just bad luck; Komisarek's beauty pass and Halpern's lucky shortie tip. Hopefully we're dealing with the latter and not the former. Tonight we find out with the Leafs facing the Stars.
Their power play has been very dangerous lately, a trouble spot for the Stars, so a parade to the box like on Saturday is not advisable for Dallas.