Following a wild 7-6 thriller against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Toronto headed into Dallas to take on the high-flying Stars. Going into the game, the Stars had won both their previous games, largely in part to the stellar play of Ben Bishop. Through the 2 games he had made 63 saves and only allowed 1 goal.
In recent years, the Stars have been a high-tempo, high scoring offence, but the knock on them had been both their suspect goaltending and their lack of defence. However, with the additions of 2017 3rd overall pick Miro Heiskanen, former Leafs Connor Carrick and Roman Polak, as well as the continuous development of smooth skating John Klingberg and Esa Lindell, things were looking promising early on for Dallas.
The game started with a pretty high pace, with the Leafs’ line of Tavares-Marner-Hyman taking control early on, as well as some impressive puck possession from the Stars top line of Seguin-Benn-Radulov. Almost 10 minutes into the game Mitch Marner ripped a shot from the slot that put the Leafs up 1-0.
On the backs of another strong shift from the Seguin line, Alexander Radulov tied the game at 1’s with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first segment. Almost instantly, Auston Matthews scored his 6th of the campaign to help the Leafs regain the lead, off a nice feed from Kasperi Kapanen. Personally, I love Kapanen’s game and think his speed is a real asset, and disagreed with Mike Babcock’s comments earlier this week about them hoping Kapanen develops into a Zach Hyman-esque player. Kapanen certainly has a higher offensive upside than we have seen from Hyman, especially considered he was a point per game player at age 20 in the American Hockey League. Another note on Kapanen, he had 2 assists through his first 57 career NHL games, and now being on Matthews’ line for 2 games, he already has 3 assists.
The Stars started to pickup some moment early in the 2nd period, and Tyler Seguin scored a slick five-hole goal on a breakaway to re-tie the game around the midway mark of the period. Without skipping a beat, the Leafs responded on the powerplay, with yet another goal from the red hot Auston Matthews. This guy is going to get paid. Big time.
A few minutes later the Leafs scored again, this time coming on a soft point shot from Ron Hainsey, to make the game 4-2. Par Lindholm, who hasn’t done much to stand out thus far, picked up his first NHL point with an assist on the play. The Leafs then added yet another powerplay goal, this time from John Tavares, off of a gorgeous play from the ever-dangerous Mitch Marner and another assist to Morgan Rielly. Speaking of Ron Hainsey, he lost his man out front on the penalty kill, who just so happened to be Jamie Benn. Turns out, you should not give time and space to Jamie Benn, and he capitalized with a nice tip to make the score 5-3 Toronto.
Just over 2 minutes into the 3rd, the Stars top line struck again, as Radulov made a nice pass back to the point where John Klingberg walked in and rocketed one past Fredrick Andersen. Babcock challenged the play, as Jamie Benn bumped into Andersen’s stick as the puck passed him, however the goal stood, and the lead was shortened to 5-4.
5 minutes into the 3rd frame, Zach Hyman flew down the wall past Marc Methot to beat out an icing call, got the puck to Mitch Marner who fed John Tavares, who scored his 2nd of the game on a wrap around that banked off Methot’s skate. John Tavares, assisted by Mitch Marner… get used to hearing that, if you aren’t already.
6 minutes left in the game, Andersen made his best save of the early-season, sprawling out and flashing the leather to steal one from Heiskanen, who thought he had a wide open cage.
With 4 minutes left, Dallas coach Jim Montgomery pulled the goalie in an effort to close the gap, but a minute later Connor Brown tapped one into the yawning cage off a lob pass from Morgan Rielly, who cashed in his 4th point of the night.
The final score ended up in a much deserved 7-4 win for Toronto. This team is on pace to put up some wild offensive numbers, and it doesn’t look they are going to slow down anytime soon. If they can tighten up some d-zone coverage, they are going to be a serious playoff threat this season.
Matthews is on another level right now. His skating is noticeably quicker than last year, his shot as lethal as always, and the puck seems to be bouncing his way. Look out league.
Mitch Marner quietly had a 4-point night. Tavares must love catching passes from him.
Miro Heiskanen will be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy at the end of the year. Silky smooth skater who can move the puck and loves to carry it out of trouble himself. He looks a lot like John Klingberg already.
I really didn’t mind Gauthier’s game. Wasn’t a fan of him when the Leafs used their 1st round pick on a player with such a low offensive-ceiling, and he hasn’t done much to change my opinion in the last handful of years. However, with Ennis and Leivo on his wings, they had a few nice shifts in the o-zone tonight.
Dallas lacks depth. The rely heavily on their top line and their offensive defencemen to create offence, and got minimal chances from lines 2-4 tonight.
Ron Hainsey looks worse than last year. Last year he looked worse than he did when he won a cup with the Penguins the year before. Not a promising trend, and he is really struggling to contain opponent’s top lines early on this season.