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.
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mike Santorelli (25) skates over the blue line against Dallas Stars defenseman Jordie Benn (24) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Dallas 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Leafs beat the Stars 5-3 in their first game against each other this season.
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Leafs Injury Report
Leo Komarov is doubtful with a concussion.
Stars Injury Report
Valeri Nichushkin is out with a groin injury.
Rich Peverley is out with a heart-related issue.
Jordie Benn is questionable with an illness.
Patrick Eaves doubtful with a lower-body injury.
Travis Moen is probable with an upper-body injury.
Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) battles for the puck with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) during the third period of their NHL game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
At this point, the Leafs are not in a position to take anything for granted. After losing two straight to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes, they got another wake up call against the Chicago Blackhawks. It seemed like the Leafs were trying to be too careful in this game and the Blackhawks took advantage. Unfortunately for the Leafs the Blackhawks were dealing with the sudden death of assistant equipment manager Clint Reif which gave them extra motivation in this game.
Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) scores against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the third period of their NHL game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs did have a better effort, but what this game showed was that they are not at the same level as a team like the Blackhawks. Chicago have superior players, coaching and managing that is at a higher level than the Leafs and were willing to take a more patient approach to building one of the best teams in the league. Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa will be with the team for many years and they are hard players to compete against. In comparison to the players that the Leafs have invested as a part of their core, it is difficult to compare them to what the Blackhawks have.
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Booth (20) shoots the puck against Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen (32) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
When the Leafs faced the Stars earlier in the season, Dallas were not a good defensive team. Like Toronto, they relied too much on their offence and goaltending to get the job done and when that was not working, they had to make changes. They are currently riding a four game win streak and have won five out of their last seven games at home. They started the season with only one win in their first ten games at home posting a 1-5-4 record.
In their last game against the Stars, the Leafs scored five goals and out-shot Dallas 40-38. It was a rare moment where we saw the Leafs dominate the play from start to finish. Now the defence was not perfect against the Stars, but they did enough to win the game convincingly.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dec 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) battles for the puck with Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) in front of Kari Lehtonen (32) looks on at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs DAL: 7 GP – 2 goals – 2 assist – 4 PTS
Joffrey Lupul career vs DAL: 22 GP- 6 goals- 9 assists- 15 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs DAL: 3 GP- 3 goals- 4 assists- 7 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs DAL: 7 GP – Record: 4-3 2.51 GAA – .915 SV%
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
Tyler Seguin career vs TOR: 19 GP- 10 goals- 8 assists- 18 PTS
Jamie Benn career vs TOR: 7 GP- 1 goal- 6 assists- 7 PTS
Jason Spezza career vs TOR: 57 GP- 18 goals- 39 assists- 57 PTS
Kari Lehtonen career vs TOR: 11 GP (10 GS)- Record: 3-7-2 2.97 GAA- .894 SV%
Keys to Victory for Toronto
Dec 21, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) shoots in the loose rebound for his second goal of the game against Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) in the third period at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Chris LaFrance-USA TODAY Sports
What the Leafs need to improve on is their play without the puck and their puck pursuit. When they do not have the puck, the Leafs can’t just stand around and expect it to land on their stick. As a team they must work together to make sure the Stars forwards – who are very dangerous – do not beat them for the easy goal. Make them work for their chances and if the Leafs have the puck they need to find a way to sustain pressure in the offensive zone.
March 7, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) looks to make a pass while being pressured by Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
People always talk about the Kessel-Seguin rivalry and it should not be a surprise considering the trade that Brian Burke made to acquire Kessel. However recently that has not been a major spotlight with Seguin now playing in Dallas. What the Leafs did well when they played Seguin was keep him from having an impact on the game. He was a minus three and 3% on the faceoff, basically forcing Seguin to try and shutdown the Leafs defensively while Kessel had a goal on six shots. Look for Kessel to try and spark a Leafs offence that was shutdown by the Blackhawks.
Dec 13, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly (44) reacts after a win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Detroit 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
This is a game where the Leafs need to avoid being too cautious, while trying to come out strong. If the losses to the Hurricanes and Flyers told the Leafs anything it is that you cannot take your foot off the gas pedal and you have to execute your game plan early and often. It has been too unpredictable to decide on whether the Leafs will win or lose, so it could be a good chance for them to win with the expectations being lower and a chance to go into Christmas with an early present.