STARS (21-22-10) at TORONTO (24-17-10)
7:30 pm (TSN4)
Too may times . . . high scoring . . . blown leads . . . too many losses . . . now overflowing concern over Toronto’s defense. Tonight the Leafs will be looking to tighten up play in their own end of the rink when they host the Dallas Stars at the ACC.
Dallas comes into tonight’s game having lost two in a row and are 3-5-2 over their past 10 games. However, the last time these two teams met, Dallas scored five first period goals and cruised to a 6-3 win over the Leafs just one week ago.
The Stars are a bit of a puzzle this year. Since the last lockout in 2012, GM Jim Nill developed a reputation of quickly being able to navigate the new CBA and succeed. Steady improvement saw the team peak at 109 points last season. Now they are on pace to finish well out of the playoffs at 80 points.
Goaltending has been blamed for the dramatic fall. Rumours are plentiful that the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury will be heading to Dallas before the trade deadline in 21 days. In the case of the Penguins this trade would make sense as Fleury is now a highly paid backup goaltender that would otherwise be exposed for the expansion draft this coming June.
Also hampering the Stars are injuries. Jason Spezza, Johnny Oduya and Jamie Olesiak are three key players that will not play tonight as they nurse various ailments.
Tonight is the second half of back to back games for the Leafs. Last evening was another high scoring affair that resulted in another blown lead and a loss in overtime vs the New York Islanders. It also marked a historic night of five rookies scoring the Leafs five goals.
Earlier this afternoon Leafs Hub had a chat with former NHL’er Patrick O’Sullivan. Now an analyst for TSN, this is what he had to say.
“The last 4-5 games the leafs d have been too soft in puck battles and too soft in front of the net allowing easy rebound goals. Andersen needs to be better as well. Not good enough from him.”
Good point. Something is amiss with Andersen. Perhaps the heavy workload is starting to tire him. Rebounds and poor positioning have contributed to his poor play of late.
With the trade deadline approaching, O’Sullivan had this to say about moving forward . . .
“I don’t think they do anything at the deadline and I don’t think they should. They are nowhere near good enough to be a big time buyer.”
“I think they pursue a top 3 dman in the summer when it’s easier to acquire a player of that caliber.”
This is only year two of the rebuild. The depth is not there yet to effectively move bodies in and out of the organization. Understandably Leafs Nation is getting impatient. Between now and the end of the season, Leafs’ management will likely stick to the plan and continue to rebuild.
For tonight, expect this Leafs team to be more aware in all areas of the ice. As Babcock has tried to preach, take care of things in your own end and the offense will take care of itself.
What do you think Leaf fans?
Discuss among yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Komarov — Kadri — Nylander
Martin — Smith — Soshnikov
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Benn — Eakin — Eaves
Rousell — Seguin — Ritchie
Shore — Faksa — Sharp
McKenzie — Cracknell — Korpikoski
Lindell — Klingburg
Hamhuis — Benn
Nemeth — Johns
Maple Leaf Rookies — Making History — 02/07/2017