Joseph Woll remains in the crease as the Maple Leafs head into Dallas to take on a Stars team that is undefeated in regulation through five games (8:00 p.m. EST, TSN4).
It wouldn’t be a difficult argument to make that Dallas is the stiffest test the Maple Leafs have faced through the opening weeks of the season.
The Stars’ power play is off to a miserable start (12%), but otherwise, they are currently 4-0-1, have allowed just 10 goals, haven’t allowed a goal on the penalty kill, are flaunting high-end underlying defensive numbers, and have a goaltender in Jake Oettinger who is sporting a .952 save percentage through four starts. Additionally, dating back to the start of last season, they have the highest points percentage on home ice of any team in the Western Conference (.663), eclipsing even the Golden Knights.
The Leafs will dodge Oettinger tonight as the Stars give Scott Wedgewood the start, but Wedgewood has given the Stars ~.915 goaltending whenever called on the past couple of seasons, and Dallas’ structure under Pete DeBoer is such that it puts their goaltenders in positions to succeed.
Most likely, the Leafs are going to need to be comfortable in a tight-checking road game where they’ll need to keep it tight defensively and grind for their offense against a Stars team that is big and skilled up and down the lineup at both forward and defense.
It’s a money-on-the-board game for John Klingberg and Max Domi, and there is plenty of Ontario-born content on the Stars’ roster to boot. This should be a spirited battle and a high-level matchup.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the challenge the Dallas Stars present:
A significant challenge. Defensively, they do a really good job of protecting their net well. Their penalty kill is outstanding. They have lots of skill and size throughout the lineup both on forward and defense.
They are a high-quality team for a reason. We will be prepared for that. For us, it is a chance to go up against a team that has all of those things I just talked about but also has lots of confidence and is playing extremely well in the early going.
A great challenge for us late in this trip.
Pete DeBoer on the challenge presented by the Leafs:
As advertised, right? High-end skill. Elite players at all positions. They have had consistency in their coaching. They are not one of those teams that is having issues with getting up to speed with their systems.
Dangerous team. I had Ryan Reaves in Vegas. I am a big fan of Max Domi. I love the element those guys bring to your dressing room. I loved having both of those guys in the room when I coached. I am sure that has been helpful.
Deboer on his experience coaching Max Domi in Dallas last season:
I loved Max. I loved what he brought on the ice but I also loved the energy he brought to our room and the accountability he brought on the ice to the other team with his physicality.
He is just a really great guy to be around. He has a great energy to him every day. He has a great competitiveness to him. We miss him within our group.
We wouldn’t have gotten to the Conference finals without him and his contributions last year.
DeBoer on his experience coaching Ryan Reaves in Vegas:
Character is the best word. He is a special guy. I think it is the toughest job in hockey to do what he does. It has been for a long time. It still is.
Underrated player. Underrated hockey sense and attention to detail and systems. I think he has a future coaching one day. I am sure he has his mind set on a beer enterprise or something else. I am sure coaching is probably not on his radar, but if he wanted to, I think he would be an outstanding coach. He has a great feel.
I am a big fan.
DeBoer on the meaning of the matchup for his Ontario-born players:
If you are an Ontario-born guy, I think any time you play the Leafs, there is an extra something.
Because we have seven or something, there will be more of a fight for [who is in the starting lineup] in Toronto in front of their friends and family. There is definitely more juice for those Toronto guys, absolutely.
Keefe on whether the Stars’ Miro Heiskanen is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league:
I don’t know if I would say he is underrated. He is pretty well-regarded in the league. I’d be lying if I said I studied the Dallas Stars and watched too many of their games, but they are a top team. They have played deep in the playoffs. You start to watch.
Certainly, around the NHL with coaches and players, he is regarded as an elite defenseman. It’s the maturity and the skating both offensively and defensively. When you see a lot of the top-flight defensemen in the league today, he has all the ingredients that those guys have.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#19 Calle Jarnkrok – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #64 David Kampf – #11 Max Domi
#18 Noah Gregor – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #75 Ryan Reaves
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#22 Jake McCabe – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 John Klingberg
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#35 Ilya Samsonov
Scratched: Fraser Minten
Injured: Conor Timmins
Dallas Stars Projected Lines
#21 Jason Robertson – #24 Roope Hintz – #16 Joe Pavelski
#63 Evgenii Dadonov – #95 Matt Duchene – #91 Tyler Seguin
#14 Jamie Benn – #53 Wyatt Johnston – #10 Ty Dellandrea
#27 Mason Marchment – #12 Radek Faksa – #15 Craig Smith
#20 Ryan Suter – #4 Miro Heiskanen
#23 Esa Lindell – #5 Nils Lundkvist
#55 Thomas Harley – #2 Jani Hakanpaa
Starter: #41 Scott Wedgewood
#29 Jake Oettinger