The Dallas Stars passed their first significant test of Western Conference competition at home with wins over Anaheim, Vancouver, and San Jose- And now it's back on the road and across the border to take on the 1-7-2 Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs haven't even treated their home fans to a win yet.
And yet these Leafs were responsible for two of the more frustrating losses for Dallas last season in a season full of frustrating losses.
Dallas allowed a bad Toronto team to pour 40 shots on them in Canada on December 2nd en route to a 5-3 loss and an 0-for-5 night on the power play. Three weeks later the Leafs came to Dallas and put a 4-0 score on Ruff's bunch despite 43 Dallas shots on Jonathan Bernier.
With the aid of those four December points Toronto finished with...68 last season. They have four this season, and only a single win- On paper it's game the Stars must take, but Toronto's puck possession numbers indicate they're much more dangerous than what they appear at first glance.
The puck drops tonight just after 6:30pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
Dallas started their surprising run on a four-game Eastern road swing, and now they get take-two on that starting in Toronto tonight. The Leafs have struggled, and new coach Mike Babcock's post-game comments lay out the blueprint on beating them-
"I liked us till they scored," said Mike Babcock on Halloween after a Penguins victory. "Then, like I've told you before, I didn't like how we handled that."
Mental note- Score first.
Dallas picked up Devin Shore on their way out of town from the Texas Stars as insurance for the forward group as Travis Moen, Patrick Eaves and Curtis McKenzie remain in Frisco- Though the lines will likely shake out as they've been.
Variations will occur:
As usual, intrigue surrounds the Dallas net. Niemi has been good. Better, some would say. With a back-to-back it's likely Kari Lehtonen will see some action. With the Bruins scoring like they are we might expect Kari to get in tonight, but at what point will Ruff start riding the hot hand? As always, we shall see what news morning skate brings.
You can look at the Leafs record and say that they're terrible. You can do that your peril, and one hopes the Dallas Stars players don't do exactly that and think they can look ahead to tomorrow night. The Leafs can be a good team, even if their point total doesn't yet reflect it.
Their 53.4% Corsi For percentage says they possess and shoot the puck more than their opponents (all situations) to the tune of 3rd best in the entire NHL, five spots better than the Dallas Stars.
They're getting pucks at the opposing net without issue. But their shooting percentage is low and their team save percentage even lower- Third WORST in the NHL at .885%. They play well and they're what you would call unlucky from a pure stats point-of-view.
Then again, they're also the Toronto Maple Leafs- And we're invoking their recent history, not their ancient history, when we refer to them like that.
Toronto out-shot the Canadiens last week- Are you ready for this?- By a margin of 52-27(!!) and somehow lost 5-3. They poured 41 shots on the Senators and lost. 37 more on Montreal on opening night and lost. Sound familiar?
So they're due for some offense. They've managed a single goal in their last 120 minutes of hockey. They've been held to one or fewer six times already in 10 games. They're due, and like last season, they'll make things tough for Dallas.
Their lineup, or something like it:
The Toronto Sun predicts James Reimer in the Leaf net after Bernier got beat up a little by the Pens on Saturday, but their situation back there is as fluid as Dallas', so we'll see.
Stephane Robias is on their roster, but out with a lower-body injury.
From Stars PR:
RUNNING THROUGH THE SIX WITH MY WOES
The Dallas Stars begin a four-game Eastern Conference road trip with a Monday night matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Last season, the Stars went winless against the Maple Leafs (0-2-0) and look to record their first win in Toronto since the 2008-09 season. In the most recent game of the series played at Air Canada Centre, the Maple Leafs defeated the Stars, 5-3, on Dec. 2, 2014. Defenseman Alex Goligoski recorded a multi-point outing (0-2=2), center Jason Spezza (1-0=1) and forward Ales Hemsky (1-0=1) each notched a goal with defensemen John Klingberg (0-1=1) and Jamie Oleksiak (0-1=1) adding helpers.
BEST I EVER HAD
Stars defenseman John Klingberg extended his point streak to seven games (2-7=9) with two assists (0-2=2) in Saturday afternoon's win against the San Jose Sharks, the longest point streak of his career and the longest active point streak in NHL. He now has recorded the longest point streak by a Stars defenseman since Sergei Zubov posted a nine-game point streak (3-7=10) from March 24 - April 15, 2006. The native of Gothenburg, Sweden shares first amongst NHL defensemen with 11 points (2-9=11) this season, while his nine assists rank fifth amongst League blueliners. He ranks third on the team in points (11) and second in assists (9). The second year defenseman also ranks second on the club in time on ice (23:15) and shares third with a +3 plus/minus rating.