Dallas Stars @ Toronto Maple Leafs
07:00 PM at Scotiabank Arena
Watch on: SN, BSSW, TVAS-D
The Leafs last game was at home on February 5 against the New York Islanders, which Toronto lost by a score of 3-2 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 25-15-8 for a 0.604 Points %.
The Dallas Stars played last night in Buffalo. The Stars won by a score of 2-1 in regulation, and their current league record is 31-13-6 for a 0.680 Points %.
Fresh off a bit of a steal of a win in Buffalo, the Stars will be looking to do it again. I say a bit of a steal because Buffalo was Buffalo in that game and managed to turn a 58% Corsi advantage in all-situations into a 45% deficit by shooting from the high slot instead of closer to the net. This is a pretty typical pattern for the Dallas defence.
Dallas actually has won a higher percentage of their games against Eastern Conference teams than they have against their own Conference. They win in regulation about 60% of the time in the east, so they aren't one of those western teams that feast on San Jose and Anaheim.
Jake Oettinger, another Matthews choice at the ASG, was excellent for the Stars last night, so the Leafs should get Scott Wedgewood. Goaltending has been the Stars big weakness this season. Oettinger, almost the same age as Joe Woll, but further along in his career, has had some wild swings in his results in the last two seasons.
Wedgewood is even more wild, and usually not very good on his career. He's the kind of goalie who lets in a lot of goals on medium and high danger shots. So the defence really needs to help him.
Saad Yousuf via Daily Faceoff
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Wyatt Johnston
Mason Marchment - Matt Duchene - Tyler Seguin
Jamie Benn - Sam Steel - Joe Pavelski
Craig Smith - Radek Faksa - Evgenii Dadonov
Thomas Harley - Miro Heiskanen
Esa Lindell - Jani Hakanpaa
Ryan Suter - Nils Lundkvist
Scott Wedgewood - likely starter
The Leafs practiced yesterday with the same lineup they had on Monday. They could recall someone to fill in on the bottom six, but that requires David Kämpf to be put on IR first. He's likely going to play again next week.
We've all seen the quotes from the last game. Sheldon Keefe summed it up as they did just enough to lose while playing well enough to win. He also thinks they've only played about half their games as well as they can play.
The Leafs are a good team, and no that guy on the fourth line or Max Domi or the lack of a defence addition is not why they play like they do half the time. The eyes are sliding off the top players on this team again to find excuses in the depth. It's not actually the job of the depth or the goalie to play lights out every minute so that the top 11 players on the team can sleep through a game when it suits them.
Oh, if only Auston Matthews had a decent winger! Well, here's a funny thing I learned at the ASG. Connor McDavid invented this hideously hard passing test. This is the event Nikita Kucherov flamed out of. You had to skate and make passes at targets and you had to do it stationary. Matthews was really, really good. The guy with the lowest assists of anyone competing was up there with Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson in skill at directing the puck. Auston Matthews doesn't have assists because he makes sure the best shooter on the ice takes the shot.
In other words, digging in the corners, getting the puck, and getting it to Matthews is the job of a decent winger for him. And the Knies - Matthews - Marner line has a goals for percentage of 64. Bertuzzi - Tavares - Nylander are at 60. This top six has the playing good part down. They are fine. There is no problem there.
Oh, if only the Leafs had a decent third line! Yes it would be good if the third line didn't need careful usage to get them a similar goals for %, but it does actually work out most of the time. I wouldn't go into the playoffs with that setup and the lack of Calle Järnkrok is a problem, but they aren't sinking the team on their own.
The Leafs have two problems: they are mediocre at shotshare. And that's on the defence to a great extent, but it's also on the forwards giving in to inertia in the defensive zone. Their second problem is the lack of mental focus, the mistakes made that give goals away for free – Expected Goals rating irrelevant.
When a team isn't quite hitting the mark, it's not that guy who plays 10 minutes. It's not even that guy who plays 15 minutes. It's the big minute forwards and the crucial top pair of defenders who are not getting it done.
Here's my list of the guilty for the shotshare problem in order of most destructive to least: Mitch Marner, TJ Brodie, Morgan Rielly, Matt Knies, Max Domi. Calle Järnkrok and Jake McCabe are enough above 50 that they are at least not destructive. Yes if you look at on-ice percentages, you will find Ryan Reaves in last place by a mile, and it just doesn't matter.
Mark Masters via Daily Faceoff
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Noah Gregor
Bobby McMann - Pontus Holmberg - Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Ilya Samsonov - confirmed starter
Get it done, Leafs.