Stars Take on Tavares and the Rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs

But do any of the rest of the Leafs count? Sources say yes.

It’s hard not to get excited about the start the Dallas Stars have had this season. Even fans reluctant to trust a team that lost out on both John Tavares and Erik Karlsson can’t scoff at the scoreboards in their first two games. Eights goals for and only one against is a far cry from where the Stars were last season at exactly this point, losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in their first game as a franchise, and then again the next night to the St. Louis Blues, an important division rival.

Of course, there are always areas of concern. The first game was a bit of a jumble, outside of the 96 seconds during which three goals were scored. The Stars took their foot off the gas in both games after pulling ahead. They’ve taken some sloppy penalties, but at least it’s given their penalty kill some time to shine.

Also, they’ve won, and winning is fun. Let’s hope they do more of that.

Dallas Stars

Valeri Nichushkin, out the first two games due to a lower body injury, could make his season debut tonight. At yesterday’s practice, Montgomery said Nichushkin was looking good, but it’s hard to change the lineup when it’s rolling this well. If he does draw in, it will likely be on the fourth line.

Jamie Benn has scored his 600th career point and is looking to score more. Connor Carrick is excited about squaring off against his old team. Roman Polak might be as well, but I’m not sure that anyone asked him. Jason Spezza had two assists in Saturday’s game and seems to be coming alive again.

Expect the lines to look much the same as Saturday’s:

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Blake Comeau
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick
Jason Dickinson/Valeri Nichushkin – Roope Hintz – Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Marc Methot – Miro Heiskenan
Connor Carrick – Roman Polak

Ben Bishop in net

Toronto Maple Leafs

You may have heard of Leaf’s big offseason acquisition: John Tavares, anyone? After walking away from the New York Islanders as a free agent this summer, Tavares signed a 7 year, $77 million contract with the Leafs, setting a gold standard for franchise forwards in both term and dollar amount. (Although not as much as he could have been making with the San Jose Sharks, apparently.)

Tavares is coming in off his ninth career hat trick in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, where his three goals were didn’t account for a fourth of the goals scored in the game. The final tally was 7-6 Leafs, which was a slightly more wild number than the previous two games, which were 5-3 (a loss to the Senators) and 3-2 (a win against the Canadiens).

With the addition of Tavares and the heavy guns the Leafs already had in players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, expect a lot of action from their forwards. The Leafs are a “fun” team the way the Stars are, lots of scoring chances for and against. But where the Stars have tightened up their defense and gained some blue line structure, that is still an area in which the Leafs struggle. They’ll depend a lot on their goalie, which is a struggle Stars fans should be familiar with.

Possible line up:

Patrick Marleau – Auston Matthews – Tyler Ennis
Zach Hyman – John Tavares – Mitchell Marner
Josh Leivo – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
Andreas Johnsson – Par Lindholm – Kasperi Kapanen

Jake Gardiner – Nikita Zaitsev
Morgan Reilly – Ron Hainsey
Travis Dermott – Martin Marincin

Frederik Andersen in net