Dallas Stars vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 5 Game Preview

By Graham Jenkins
Stars Celebrate Nichushkin's Goal in Chicago
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars (13-9-4) will play the Toronto Maple Leafs (14-11-3) on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre with hopes of sweeping their two-game road trip.

The Stars enter Toronto after committing grand larceny at the United Center Tuesday night, winning 4-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks despite being severely outshot 50-18. The Leafs lost their most recent game 4-2 Tuesday night to the San Jose Sharks. Toronto has been battling injuries recently, as Colton Orr, Tyler Bozak, Dave Bolland and Joffrey Lupul are all on injured reserve. The Leafs certainly hope that Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson will be able to play tonight.

The Stars are battling their share of injuries as well, as Stephane Robidas and Aaron Rome are on injured reserve, and Ryan Garbutt will sit out after sustaining an injury in Tuesday night’s game against Chicago. Tyler Seguin is officially a game-time decision, as he has sat out the last two games with concussion-like symptoms.

Dallas will have to play most of this game during even strength, as the Stars holds a distinct advantage over Toronto in all facets of 5-on-5 play. The Stars own the NHL‘s 12th-best Fenwick-For Percentage (FF Percent) at 51.8 percent during 5-on-5 play with the score tied, and the Leafs’s FF Percent in that scenario is 39.6 percent, second-worst in the NHL.

With the score “close” during 5-on-5 play, the Stars’ FF Percent is 51.7 percent (10th in the NHL), and the Leafs’ FF Percent is 42.2 percent (29th). During 5-on-5 play overall, the Leafs’ FF Percent is 42.1 percent (29th), and the Stars’ FF Percent is 50.7 percent (13th).

While the Stars hold these advantages, it only means that playing most of the game during 5-on-5 play will present them the best opportunities to win since they control the puck more than the Leafs statistically. Sooner rather than later, the Stars will have to convert their chances, or they will lose more frustrating games.

While the Leafs are not a good team during 5-on-5 play, they are excellent on the power play, converting 24.7 percent of their chances, which is second-best in the NHL. The Leafs’ FF Percent during 5-on-4 is also excellent at 89.5 percent, which is 11th-best in the NHL.

That ranking is a bit deceiving, as the Sharks’ FF Percent is 90.7, and they own the third-best 5-on-4 FF Percent. The Stars’ penalty kill ranks 18th overall at 81.2 percent, and own the 10th-best FF percent during 4-on-5 at 12.9 percent. If the Stars go on a parade to the penalty box, it will be a long night for them.

In stark contrast to the Leafs, the Stars own the NHL’s second-worst power play at a comically awful 11.4 percent. A primary factor in the Stars’ abysmal power play is that they do not control the puck in the offensive zone well while on the power play. Their FF Percent during 5-on-4 is 82.3 percent, second-worst in the NHL.

What may help the Stars is that the Leafs do not kill penalties efficiently. The Leafs’ penalty kill ranks 25th overall at 78.5 percent, and their 4-on-5 FF Percent is 5.4 percent, second-worst in the NHL.

Despite the Leafs’ overall puck possession inefficiency during 5-on-5, they have solid goaltending. Jonathan Bernier owns a 2.44 GAA and a .929 save percentage, and James Reimer has performed just as well, possessing a 2.62 GAA and a .931 save percentage. Of those two, Bernier will get the start Thursday night.

Fresh off a 47-save performance against the Blackhawks Tuesday night, Kari Lehtonen (2.22 GAA, .928 save percentage) will start in net for the Stars.

Graham Jenkins is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JenkinsSports, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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