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Undefeated Stars Hit the Road, Face the Maple Leafs

3-0-0. Not the start that Dallas Stars fans are used to. Throw in at least four goals a game and Jake Oettinger picking up where he left off in last years playoffs, and there is plenty of room for optimism. Again, not something that Stars fans are used to.

Speaking of which, contributions are coming for the entire lineup. Is Dallas more than a one line team?

Thursday evenings game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs should be a good test of that theory. Toronto has two top lines, centered by Auston Matthews and John Tavares with a third line that can be respectable. Fourth line, not so much.

The Maple Leafs are wrapping up a four game home stand, coming off a 4-2 loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes. The Stars are opening up a four game road trip through eastern Canada and Boston. Given those game dynamics, Dallas better be ready for a big push from Toronto.

Yes. Things can get a bit unhinged at the center of the hockey universe.

On the other hand, Peter DeBoer has opened the season with the same lineup for all three games. As expected, the top line, centered by Roope Hintz, has been dominant. Somewhat surprisingly, the second line with Tyler Seguin, Mason Marchment and Ty Dellandrea has chipped in for the same number of goals.

The bottom two lines have had some issues, but each has contributed (although Wyatt Johnston’s goal was on the power play). Let’s take a deeper look:

Stars Lines

Line CF% xG% HDCF%
Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski 54.9 63.6 70
40.9 44.3 41.9
Marchment-Seguin-Dellandrea 45.4 57.3 54.5
44 50 50
Benn-Johnston-Gurianov 42.3 42.4 37.5
45.3 54.4 55.9
Kiviranta-Faksa-Glendening 37.5 43.9 42.9
46.5 53.2 51.5

The table above lists Corsi For %, xG% and High Danger Corsi %, both with and without the three player line. Outside of the Hintz line, no line is Corsi positive. The Seguin line is xG positive and High Danger Corsi positive.

For the bottom lines, it’s been quite some time since Faksa was on a analytic positive line, and that continues with the first three games this year. The same is true with the Johnston line, but with some additional concerns.

One thing that I look at with CF%, xG% and HDCF% is for an increase in percentage from Corsi through High Danger Corsi. This is indicative of a line that is optimizing their shot attempts. In addition to the top two lines, the Faksa line also meets this criteria.

The Benn-Johnston-Gurianov line does not, which is an indication that the shots from that line aren’t the type that generate opportunities or goals. Given the Jacob Peterson has yet to draw in, I’d expect to see him replace either Johnston or Gurianov for one or more games on this road trip.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Mason Marchment (27) – Tyler Seguin (91) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Denis Gurianov (34)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Radek Faksa (12) – Luke Glendening (11)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Ryan Suter (20) – Jani Hakanpaa (2)

Jake Oettinger (35)

Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup

Michael Bunting (58) – Auston Matthews (34) – Mitchell Marner (16)
Nick Robertson (89) – John Tavares (91) – William Nylander (88)
Pierre Engvall (47) – Alexander Kerfoot (15) – Calle Jarnkrok (19)
Zach Aston-Reese (12) – David Kampf (64) – Nicolas Aube-Kubel (96)

Morgan Rielly (44) – TJ Brodie (78)
Rasmus Sandin (38) – Justin Holl (3)
Mark Giordano (55) – Victor Mete (98)

Ilya Samsonov (35)

Jake Muzzin, who played in the first four games, has been placed on LTIR. Toronto brought in forwards Nick Robertson, Wayne Simmonds, defender Victor Mete and goaltender Erik Kallgren on emergency loans. They are stretching what was already a large LTIR pool.

Keys to the Game

Top End Talent vs. Depth. Both teams have high payed, skilled forwards with some questions down the lineup. The Maple Leafs have more weakness to hide, but its up to the Stars to take advantage.

Goaltending. Toronto goaltender depth is being tested by the loss of Matt Murray. Jake Oettinger is stopping almost everything that comes his way.

Top Defenders. Morgan Rielly and Miro Heiskanen. Rielly sets the plate for Toronto’s top end forwards, but if you make him play in his own zone, he can be exploited. Defending and transitioning the puck is something that Heiskanen knows a bit about.

Talking Points