Dallas is mired in a poor stretch of play – 2-7-1 in their last 10 games – but won their last game 4-0 over Minnesota on Tuesday. Their top line is a serious threat, with Benn and Seguin combining for 86 points between them this season, compared to JvR and Kessel’s 91. After their dynamic duo the Stars have a bit of a drop off in production, with no other player scoring at a greater than .50 points-per-game rate (compared to the six scoring at .50 or greater for the Leafs).
The Stars’ bigger issue, though, has been keeping pucks out of their net, as they sit 25th in goals against (2.96 per game). The Stars and Leafs actually stack up one behind the other in both goals for and against, with the key differences being the Leafs’ easier Conference and their ability to collect points via shootout.
FINAL MTL (6) - DAL (4)
FINAL DET (5) - DAL (1)
FINAL DAL (3) - NYI (7)
FINAL DAL (0) - NJD (1)
FINAL DAL (2) - NYR (3)
FINAL NYI (4) - DAL (2)
FINAL EDM (2) - DAL (5)
FINAL BOS (4) - DAL (2)
FINAL DAL (2) - MIN (3) OT
FINAL DAL (1) - NSH (4)
FINAL MIN (0) - DAL (4)
Toronto’s play has been remarkable of late—and specifically Phil Kessel, who has climbed up to 4th (tied) in the league for goals scored with 26. The Leafs’ No. 1 line has now amassed a stupefying 42 points in their last 12 games together. Kessel enters tonight riding a seven-game point streak (six goals, 14 points). The Leafs have won just five games without a Kessel point this season – how will the team fare when he is eventually kept quiet?
Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start after Reimer pitched in with a great start in Colorado. Bernier is riding a four-game win streak (2.45GAA, .935SV%).
PHOTO 26 OF 44 - COLORADO AVALANCHE VS. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 8: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck as Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche defends the goal during NHL game action October 8, 2013 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
What happens in a meeting between two teams whose working formula is to win while outshot? We’ll find out tonight in Colorado.
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 27: Zemgus Gergensons #28 of the Buffalo Sabres softens the landing for Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 27, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The Leafs look to hold onto their reclaimed playoff spot by turning a pair of wins into a winning streak against the League’s worst team, but must do so in a back-to-back situation while a chunk of their roster battles the flu bug.
TORONTO, ON- NOVEMBER 8 - Leafs Phil Kessell (81) scores first goal of the game as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on theNew Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, November 8, 2013. David Cooper/Toronto Star
Four straight regulation losses to teams below them in the Eastern Conference standings, knocking them out of a wildcard spot, have the Maple Leafs at an all time low in the Randy Carlyle era. Here’s another team nearby in the East the Leafs need to be able to beat in the Devils, who are tied with the Maple Leafs with 47 points through 46 games. Like the Rangers and Islanders earlier in the week, the Devils are coming into the ACC in the second game of a back to back (beat the Panthers in OT last night).
TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 28: James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends the goal as teammate Carl Gunnarsson #36 battles for the puck with Jiri Tlusty #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL game action March 28, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
According to Jonas Siegel, Mark Fraser is going to enter the lineup in the place of Jake Gardiner.
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 19: Kevin Poulin #60 of the New York Islanders defends the goal as teammate Matt Carkner #7 battles with Frazer McLaren #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action November 19, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first blowout loss of the season came at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets back on November 25, a game much like Saturday night’s in that the team was plainly outworked from puck drop. After getting booed off the ice, the Maple Leafs were probably happy to take to the road for the three games afterward. Booed after each period en route to a 7-1 loss to the Rangers and apologizing after the game on Saturday, the Leafs won’t get the same reprieve tonight. With a tenuous hold on the final wildcard spot, the Leafs will need to bounce back on home ice against a team they should be able to beat in the New York Islanders.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With the HBO 24/7 sideshow and the 2014 Winter Classic spectacle now behind them, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to continue a three-game winning streak versus the New York Rangers.
The sun rises over Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., before the Detroit Red Wings face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. (Dave Sandford/NHLI)
It’s been a year and a half of a build up for the 2014 Winter Classic. The NHL lockout prevented the winter classic for happening January 1, 2013, and now a year later, the event being dubbed as “The Biggest Hockey Game Of All Time” is going to take place today, weather permitted.
HBO 24/7 has been documenting two teams: the Detroit Red Wings, who have been struggling with injury and consistency problems and, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been struggling with injury and consistency problems.
Toronto recently had Tyler Bozak return to the lineup versus the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto’s face-off percentage was in around the 60% mark for the first time in some time. Not having to rely on—and overplay—Jay McClement for all of your key face-offs makes a big difference in how you deploy your team and it’s one of the positives of having Tyler Bozak back in the lineup. Constantly losing draws, while not the most important aspect of the game, does come into play in key situations and game breaking goals off of key draws. Bozak was 56% on the dot vs Carolina and hopefully a trend we’ll see continue.
Toronto will be starting Jonathan Bernier, who has a sizzling .949 save percentage in his last five games, settling into a groove in the Toronto crease. much as been made about the goaltending tandem the Toronto Maple Leafs employ and how James Reimer is not a favorite of coach Carlyle, and is not getting the starts and chances he deserves. Reimer has been given every chance to succeed, and Bernier, even by the slightest of margins, is showing to be the better of the two (shootouts not included).
Henrik Zetterberg will be a gametime decision, as will Daniel Alfredsson, who is nursing an injury.
2014 Winter Classic: Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Detroit Red Wings matchup.
Part 2 of the 2014 Winter Classic Alumni game shows both team’s best lineups (save for the Maple Leafs’ Sundin, who is recovering for Surgery). The lineups for both teams are stacked with Hall of Fame talent, and many Stanley Cup Winners. Toronto’s lineup, unsurprisingly, contains a lot truculence (that can play).
- 3 regulation wins in the last 25 games for the Leafs. That has to change tonight.
- Jonathan Bernier starts for the Leafs after stopping 39 of 40 shots vs. the Rangers.
- No real changes to the lineup from Monday’s loss to the Rangers: Paul Ranger stays in beside Morgan Rielly, Liles and Fraser sit.
- Randy Carlyle says he likes the strength and “power” to Ranger’s game, meaning “Power Ranger” can now be a thing.
- No Cody Hodgson for the Sabres, who is out for another couple of weeks after hurting himself blocking a shot.
- Ryan Miller starts in net. He sports a 31-15-1 record and .922 save percentage in his career vs. Toronto.
- Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons has three goals and three assists in his past nine games.
- Buffalo remains the worst team in the league but have gone 4-4-2 in their last ten. Mostly because their goals against are down lately. Ryan Miller is heating up ((2-0-0, 1.45, .959 in last 2 GP).
- The Sabres are averaging a hideous 1.68 goals per game. The last team to finish below 2 per game on average was the Lightning in 1997-98 with a 1.84 GF/G.
- Ted Nolan has stated his intention to put John Scott in front of Jonathan Bernier on the powerplay tonight. Bernier will have to peer around him and tune out all the guttural grunting.