By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs paid a visit to the Stars in Dallas and walked out of Texas with a 4-1 win.
With the win, the Maple Leafs are assured of a winning record in October for the first time since Sheldon Keefe took over as head coach. In Keefe’s first season, the Maple Leafs did not play in October due to the pandemic lockdown. They went 4-4-1 in October of 2021 and followed that up with a 4-4-2 record in October of 2022. They now sport a 5-2 record with two games left in the month, Saturday night in Nashville followed by a home game versus the Los Angeles Kings on Halloween.
While the Maple Leafs didn’t generate much offence of their own in the first period, they kept things tight defensively and didn’t allow Dallas much room at all. The shots in the period were 8-5 Maple Leafs. According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Scoring Chances were 10-3 for Toronto and the High-Danger Chances were 3-1, also for the Maple Leafs.
For the second game in a row, Rielly had a goal and an assist. Rielly opened the scoring at 9:49 of the first period as a result of some strong play by William Nylander. Nylander won a battle for the puck behind the Stars’ net, then walked out from the righthand corner. Pulling four Dallas players to him, he then found Rielly sneaking in from the point and wide open. Rielly fired a wrist shot over a sprawling Scott Wedgewood.
Reilly’s assist came on the power play in the third period. With the score 2-1 Toronto just over five minutes into the third and the Stars’ Jani Hakanpaa in the box for a four-minute high sticking of David Kampf, Reilly fired a waist-high wrist shot toward the Dallas net. Tyler Bertuzzi deflected it straight down and under Wedgewood. I have stated before that more teams are using this type of shot from the point. It is an extremely difficult shot for the goalie to stop.
Reilly played 26:13 in the game to lead all players in ice time. He could have easily had one or two more points as he was active in the offensive zone the whole game. Rielly is picking up where he left off in the playoffs last season when he scored 12 points in 11 games. He now has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in seven games to start this season. He has also been playing excellent defensively.
William Nylander and John Tavares
Nylander’s assist on Rielly’s goal extends his scoring streak to seven games from the start of the season. Nylander has 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in those seven games.
John Tavares scored into the empty net with 11 seconds left in the game to see his point streak also extended to seven games. Like Nylander, Tavares has 11 points in those seven games (4 goals, 7 assists).
Mitch Marner scored a big goal late in the second period to put the Maple Leafs up 2-1 in the game. On the play, T.J. Brodie dumped the puck into the Dallas zone off of a faceoff win by Auston Matthews in the neutral zone. The puck went behind the net and came out the left side. Calle Janrkrok got to it first tipping it to Matthews beside the Stars net. Matthews found Marner in front of the net. Marner beat Wedgewood with a quick wrist shot blocker side.
This was after Dallas completely dominated, and outplayed Toronto for most of the period.
Marner has had a slow start this season and his timing has been off with his plays and passes. He still has six points (2 goals, 5 assists) in the seven games. Slow starts have seemed to become the norm for Marner in the past few seasons. That may be a reason why the team has had slow starts as well. Hopefully, this game will help him to catch his stride soon.
For the third game in a row, the best Maple Leafs player was Joseph Woll. He was especially strong over the last two periods. Woll stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in the game, with 27 of them coming in the last two periods. Several stops Woll made were sure to make the highlight reels. A couple of them were spectacular.
Of the 34 goalies who have had at least four appearances in the early going this season, Woll sits atop the league, posting a 1.33 Goals Against Average and a 0.961% Save Percentage.
After avoiding serious injury when he took a 98-mile-an-hour slapshot off the side of his head in the Washington game, Jake McCabe’s night lasted only ten seconds in Dallas. On the opening play of the game, McCabe seemed to stumble while getting body position on Matt Duchene on an icing. He immediately skated off the ice favoring his right leg and did not return. In his postgame press conference, head coach Sheldon Keefe did not sound encouraged that Mccabe would be able to play in Nashville on Saturday.
After playing a strong first period, the Maple Leafs let Dallas take control of the game in the last two periods. According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Stars had 34 Scoring Chances to the Maple Leafs 12 and 18 High-Danger Chances to Toronto’s six in the last 40 minutes of play. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the Maple Leafs were in the lead for most of the game.
The events leading up to the Dallas goal were pretty ugly. Pontus Holmberg, Matthew Knies, Ryan Reaves, Timothy Liljegren, and Mark Giordano spent close to two minutes hemmed in their zone by the Stars. When Knies finally got a hold of the puck, he executed a soft dump out of the zone with the puck in an attempt to avoid an icing call. That gave the Maple Leafs a chance to make the long change.
Dallas defenseman Ryan Suter made a smart play with the puck quickly head-manning it to Matt Duchene creating a three-on-two with the dead-tired Liljegren and Giordano as the only players back. Duchene moved to the center of the slot, faked a shot to freeze Woll, and dished the puck off to former Maple Leafs player Mason Marchment. Marchment roofed the puck over Woll’s right shoulder. That tied the score at 1-1.
Despite the fact the Maple Leafs have not played any back-to-backs or three games in four nights, the players seemed tired as the game went on. With the defence playing one man short for the whole game, it is understandable they might be a little strained.
The fourth line has been getting caved in their ice time. If the fourth line isn’t capable of pulling its weight for eight to twelve minutes a game, it’s an issue that will have to be addressed. I hate to say it but Reaves seems to be a liability out there. I understand why Reaves is on the team, but he has to be able to take a regular shift to be a value to the team.
If McCabe can’t go on Saturday, the Maple Leafs will have to move out a forward to make room for whomever they decide to replace him with. It would not surprise me if Keefe wanted to keep Fraser Minton with the team for the whole road trip and maybe give him one more game before sending him back to Juniors. However, if McCabe can’t play, the Maple Leafs might be forced to release him sooner, at least on paper anyway.
As I mentioned in the opening, the Maple Leafs finish up their road trip on Saturday night in Nashville when they take on the Predators. They return home to take on the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. That Halloween game has an 8:00 p.m. start.
They travel to Boston to take on the Bruins on Thursday night before returning to Toronto for a five-game home stand. After that, they head to Sweden to play two games as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
Ilya Samsonov is scheduled to start the Nashville game.