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Maple Leafs Pregame #51: 5 things to watch for against Dallas

The win was so nice let’s do it twice.

The Leafs looked pretty good in Nashville. This was helped by Nashville looking absolutely terrible, but damned if that’s going to stop me from being optimistic about what the Leafs will do to the Stars tonight.

Crushing a bit of that optimism is the fact that the Stars are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, although they only have a 9-9-0 record against the Eastern Conference, so maybe they’ve just been beating up on the lifeless Pacific Division this year.

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Either way, it’s another important game (they pretty much all will be from here on out) and we can hope the Leafs will take advantage of being still relatively rested and looking to build a win streak.

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.6#30 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

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Rating: 82.9#3 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.3#8 RW

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FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.61#5 FL1
Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.8#83 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

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Rating: 78.9#12 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.6#13 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.76#6 FL2
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 72.1#72 LW

Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.2#68 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 72.0#67 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.46#7 FL3
Trevor Moore
TREVOR MOORE

Rating: 70.5#111 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 70.5#145 C

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 69.7#112 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.25#24 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 73.8#35 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 71.5#19 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.67#26 DL1
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 71.8#77 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 76.0#12 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.91#11 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 73.9#34 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 70.7#91 RD

LW C RW Forwards
Jamie Benn
JAMIE BENN

Rating: 74.2#36 LW

Tyler Seguin
TYLER SEGUIN

Rating: 76.7#26 C

Alexander Radulov
ALEXANDER RADULOV

Rating: 75.2#24 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.37#14 FL1
Denis Gurianov
DENIS GURIANOV

Rating: 71.9#76 LW

Roope Hintz
ROOPE HINTZ

Rating: 74.4#34 C

Joe Pavelski
JOE PAVELSKI

Rating: 73.9#55 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 73.38#21 FL2
Andrew Cogliano
ANDREW COGLIANO

Rating: 69.3#168 LW

Radek Faksa
RADEK FAKSA

Rating: 71.2#122 C

Blake Comeau
BLAKE COMEAU

Rating: 69.5#113 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 70.00#29 FL3
Mattias Janmark
MATTIAS JANMARK

Rating: 70.3#152 LW

Jason Dickinson
JASON DICKINSON

Rating: 70.7#135 C

Corey Perry
COREY PERRY

Rating: 69.8#107 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.28#23 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Esa Lindell
ESA LINDELL

Rating: 75.3#15 LD

John Klingberg
JOHN KLINGBERG

Rating: 77.5#5 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.41#4 DL1
Miro Heiskanen
MIRO HEISKANEN

Rating: 76.7#1 LD

Roman Polak
ROMAN POLAK

Rating: 71.5#78 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.08#7 DL2
Jamie Oleksiak
JAMIE OLEKSIAK

Rating: 71.8#78 LD

Stephen Johns
STEPHEN JOHNS

Rating: 72.6#56 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.20#15 DL3

Is it just me or does Dallas look a lot like one line and three defensemen? Oh yeah, and they have good goaltending. That makes a difference.

Here are five things to watch for tonight.

1. Dust off those Polak jokes

Yep. Somehow he’s still in the league and even more shockingly he’s playing in the top four on a playoff team. This doesn’t make him good, but I feel it’s worth noting. The good news is the Leafs essentially have two first lines and one of them will get the Polak matchup. It’s times like this I wish the Stars didn’t have goaltending that makes up for their Polak usage.

2. Is Kapanen broken?

Kapanen left after the first period in Nashville, but was back in practice and appears to be ready to go for tonight. That’s good on a couple of fronts.

  1. He’s a good player who can help the Leafs win games.
  2. He’s the best trade bait we have.

It will be interesting to see how well he’s feeling tonight, and also if the Leafs become motivated to make a move sooner rather than later to avoid their injury luck catching up with them.

Personally I don’t see the Leafs making trades until the 11th hour because it will be important to establish if they are in the playoffs, on the bubble, or see themselves as out.

3. Jason Spezza’s return

Maybe this isn’t the same fanfare of facing off against Ottawa on opening night, but it’s a chance for Spezza to return to a team that let him walk, only to have him find a modest level of success with the Leafs this year. I like Spezza and chances are you do too, and it would be nice to see him have a big game tonight and possibly receive some acknowledgement from Dallas.

4. Andersen watch

A good game Monday night is just the start of what the Leafs need from Andersen. He still let in one iffy goal, but if he’s limiting it to one I don’t know how much more can be reasonably expected, it’s going to happen from time to time.

The loaded first line for the Stars will be an interesting test, and hopefully Andersen passes. He’s always been strong against Western Conference opponents, so I’m optimistic.

5. Dallas hockey isn’t fun

Expect a lot of effort being put into taking away the excitement of the Leafs. Tonight I plan on reading a book while I watch just be to be prepared.

Game time is 7:30 PM ET and it can be seen on Sportsnet.