Having arrived back in Toronto after being shut out by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Center, the Toronto Maple Leafs (7-9-1-2) will take on the 19th place Dallas Stars (10-7-0-1) with hopes of getting back on the winning track after being sidelined by Montreal after the Leafs’ two game winning streak.
These are two teams who seldom meet, with the last meeting coming on October 28th, 2009, a game in which the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in overtime in Dallas. The Leafs will be looking to rebound after being essentially dominated by the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs consistently gave up the puck on Saturday night, tried to do things that were too complicated, and were once again shut out (the shut out constituted the 4th such occurrence this year for the Leafs). The Leafs were absolutely atrocious on the power play on Saturday, with no goals scored, and with a shorthanded goal given up. The only bright spot from Saturday night was the play of Jonas Gustavsson, who was outstanding against the Canadiens, and will get the start in net tonight.
The line-up for the Leafs tonight will remain unchanged. Brett Lebda will continue to remain sidelined after his terrible game against the Nashville Predators. That means that Gunnarsson and Aulie will remain on the Leafs defense. Both have played admirable as of late. Tyler Bozak will also remain in the line-up, however it is unclear if he will remain on a line with Kadri and Kessel, or will be bumped elsewhere. Bozak did not play particularly well on Saturday night, with several giveaways and bad passes when the opportunity to shoot was present. One can only hope that Wilson will have given Bozak a talking to.
This will be Kadri’s fifth game, and as stated before, he is looking better and better with each game. It is looking more and more likely that Kadri will remain with the Leafs this season, although there are no guarantees on that. If he continues to play the way he is now, he will likely stay with the team.
In terms of the match-up itself, the Stars have won 7 of the last 10 meetings against the Leafs. In the past 5 meetings, the Stars are 5-1-0. The Stars are coming off a shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on November 20th, and are 5-4-0-1 in the past 10 games. The Leafs, in contrast, are 2-6-0-2 in the last ten games.
With regards to scoring, the Dallas Stars rank 10th in the League in goals for, and 18th in goals against. The Leafs rank a terrible 28th in goals for, and 13th in goals against. When we look at scoring per period for both teams, the following chart emerges.
In the chart above, it is clear that the Leafs still typically have issues in the first period, where they tend to give up the most of their goals against. In contrast, the Dallas Stars tend to score the majority of their goals in the first period, so once again it is imperative that the Leafs limit any chances by the Dallas Stars early on in the game, and avoid falling behind. The Leafs best chances to score goals against Dallas will likely come in the second period, where the Leafs score the majority of their goals, and where Dallas gives up considerable amounts of goals.
With regards to getting a good start, the following charts provide information on the majority of times each team scores first and is scored on first.
The Dallas Stars tend to score first in the majority of games they play, whereas the Leafs tend to give up the first goal in the majority of their games. Winning percentages for each scenario are provided below.
In games in which Dallas scores first, they win just over 80% of the time, as compared to Toronto’s ~60% of the time. When trailing first, the Stars have a slight edge over the Leafs winning percentage.
With regards to scoring on both teams, the following charts are provided.
The Stars get the majority of their offence from four guys: Richards, Eriksson, Neal, and Ribeiro. The Leafs are slightly more balanced in their scoring, but not by much. With the exception of Eriksson, the four players on Dallas, and Morrow, are all Leaf Killers. See the chart below which shows the number of points each player has scored in the number of games they’ve played against the Leafs.
In the chart above, three of the four players are all at least a point a game against the Leafs in their careers, and Ribeiro is not far off. These are the four players the Leafs will need to really focus on if they want to win tonight. It is essential to shut down each of these players if they have any chance to win tonight.
With regards to the goaltending match-up, Lehtonen will represent the Dallas Stars while Gustavsson will represent the Leafs. Gustavsson has not played against the Dallas Stars, so I have omitted a comparison of him against Dallas, since there’s no available data.
In Lehtonen’s career, he has lost the majority of the games he has played against the Leafs.
With regards to goals against average, the following chart provides information on how each goaltender matches up against each other. Save percentages are also provided.
Gustavvson’s goals against average and save percentage at home are superb, with a 1.36 goals against average at home and ~95% save percentage at home. Lehtonen, in comparison, has a very high goals against average on the road, however his save percentage is not too bad at ~91%. His career goals against average when facing the Leafs is also slightly lower, as is his save percentage.
In terms of specialty teams, the Leafs were horrible on Saturday night against the Canadiens. They barely had any chances against the Habs, who have the league’s best penalty kill. In addition to this, the Leafs gave up a shorthanded goal by Jeff Halpern. A comparison of both the Leafs’ and Stars’ specialty teams are provided below.
The Leafs have a rather decent home power play clicking percentage, whereas the Stars have a very low, pathetic away power play clicking percentage. The Leafs penalty killing is also superb to that of the Dallas stars.
If the Leafs intend to win tonight, they will need to shore up their giveaways, get back to basics, and put some pucks in on the power play. In addition to this, they need to shut down the Stars top scorers, which may prove to be a difficult challenge give the fact that they are all nearly point-a-game players against the Leafs. Shutting down those forwards, however, combined with Gustavsson’s superior goaltending, should provide the Leafs with a win tonight.