Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Tyler Seguin and Dallas Stars Come to Town
We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
Leafs went 1-1 against the Stars last season.
Leafs Injury Report
Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain.
Roman Polak is out with a knee injury.
Leo Komarov is questionable with an upper-body injury.
Stars Injury Report
Valeri Nichushkin is out with a groin injury.
Rich Peverley is out with a heart-related issue.
Patrik Nemeth is out with an arm injury.
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs have been trending upwards since they were manhandled by the Nashville Predators 9-2, they have gone 3-0-1 since that game beating top teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings, as well as losing a close game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are still some improvements that this team needs to make, but for the most part it looks promising for Leafs’ fans at the moment.
Nov 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) scores a short-handed unassisted goal against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel has not scored a goal since the Leafs loss to the Buffalo Sabres, which was on November 15 which was also when he had the confrontation with TSN reporter Jonas Siegel. Now I am sure that Kessel’s stuggles is a direct result of that but it will be interesting to see what this team will look like when Kessel starts to get going again. Have no fear though as Tyler Bozak, or as Steve Dangle calls him “Bozlightyear”, has come to the rescue. He has five goals in his last three games to equal Kessel to lead for the team lead in goals with 11. He also has seven points in his last five games. Now I do not mean to sound harsh but calling Bozak a true number one center because of a decent seven game stretch might be going too far. Eight out of his eleven goals have been scored on the power play and shorthanded which means that he has three goals at even strength.
Dec 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save against Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Stars 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
If you want to look at a number one center you can make the case that the Stars have two. Tyler Seguin, who currently leads the league in goals with 18 only three scored on the power play so 15 scored at even strength. Then they also have Jason Spezza who is still producing in a lesser second line role with 19 points in 24 games. Where Seguin’s value as a top line center has come with making the players around him better. Jamie Benn is flourishing with Seguin as his line-mate, last season Benn scored a career high 34 goals adding 45 assists for 79 points in 81 games (not bad for a player picked in the fifth round). Benn never had more than 65 points in a season until Seguin arrived in Dallas. Imagine if Seguin played with Kessel in Toronto (sorry for doing this) his skill is exactly what the Leafs need because he can easily take over a game. In my opinion Bozak does not make Kessel better instead Kessel makes Bozak better especially on the power play. At even strength the case can be made that Bozak is not as effective because he lacks the creativity and play making ability that a player like Seguin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Claude Giroux have.
Nov 28, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) allows the game winning goal to Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella (not pictured) during the overtime period at the American Airlines Center. The Wild defeated the Stars 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Where the Stars have struggled with this season is with goaltending and defence. They recently made a trade to acquire Jason Demers to help out with the defence. Kari Lehtonen has struggled this season with a 3.03 GAA and a .905 SV%. Anders Lindback does not have a win this season and his 4.63 GAA, .861 SV% makes him an incapable option for Lindy Ruff to use at the moment.
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) makes a save against Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich (21) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Bernier has been improving over the last few games going 3-1-1 in his last five starts. I would like to see him clean up his game. Against the Capitals he allowed a soft goal from Tom Wilson and he had a shaky start against the Penguins. In those five starts the Leafs have only allowed more than 30 shots once and that was against the Penguins which is a positive note for a team that is trying to clean that up.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Jan 23, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Joffrey Lupul (19) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Maple Leafs 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs DAL: 6 GP – 1 goals – 2 assist – 3 PTS
Joffrey Lupul career vs DAL: 22 GP- 6 goals- 9 assists- 15 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs DAL: 3 GP- 1 goal- 1 PT
Nazem Kadri career vs DAL: 3GP- 2 goals- 2 assists- 4 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs DAL: 7 GP – Record: 3-3 2.44 GAA – .914 SV%
Dec 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn (14) exchanges glances with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Seguin career vs TOR: 18 GP- 10 goals- 8 assists- 18 PTS
Jamie Benn career vs TOR: 5 GP- 1 goal- 6 assists- 7 PTS
Jason Spezza career vs TOR: 56 GP- 17 goals- 39 assists- 56 PTS
Ales Hemsky career vs TOR: 11 GP- 2 goals- 9 assists- 11 PTS
Kari Lehtonen career vs TOR: 11 GP (10 GS)- Record: 3-6-2 2.77 GAA- .896 SV%
Keys to Victory for Toronto
Seguin has been a big problem for the Leafs since his days with the Boston Bruins, with Jamie Benn on his line the duo are a dangerous threat. If the Leafs find a way to shut them down they have better forward depth than the Stars which is why the Leafs have played better this season.
Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalminder Jonathan Bernier (45) smothers the puck watched by defence man Korbinian Holzer (55) in the third period at Air Canada Centre. Maple Leafs won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
The Korbinian Holzer experience has not been disappointing so far (except for when he punched the referee, whoops). He has not been misused like he was in the lockout shortened season where he was playing over 20 minutes a night with Phaneuf. He is using his body to separate players from the puck which is what the Leafs need more of. The defence also has to try and create more chances from the point especially on the power play. I would like to have Cody Franson and Phaneuf switch spots on the power play having Franson play the first, because he is the better offensive defenceman.
Bernier will have to be on his game against Seguin, Benn and Spezza because he did have a hard time with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) looks on during the game against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Kessel has to find a way to get going, he could be dealing with some soreness but it is important for him to establish more consistency in his game. Luckily he is getting help form his teammates but it would be nice to see him try and counter one of the hottest goal scorers in the league. If Seguin dominates without any response from Kessel the Toronto media will be all over Kessel.
Dec 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) skates away from Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn (14) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Seeing how the Leafs took advantage of bad goaltending over the course of the season I can see them coming away with the win but Lehtonen can pick up his game at any point and if the Leafs cannot get offence against Dallas it will be hard to stop Seguin and Benn all game. But this Dallas team has had a hard time defending and it could be a good opportunity to take advantage of a team that is struggling at the moment.