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Stars, Leafs are NHL's only unbeaten teams

by Dan Rosen
Does it make any sense?

That has to be what fans in Toronto and Dallas are asking themselves now as they look at the NHL standings 11 days into the regular season and see their teams, the Maple Leafs and Stars, with 4-0 records.

They are the most prolific teams in the NHL right now.

Does it make any sense at all?

"Guys want to be around each other and hang out," Leafs third-year defenseman Luke Schenn said. "This is the closest group since I've been here for sure."

OK, fair point Mr. Schenn. What about the Stars?

"This is the first game of the year I wasn't sharp, but the team was sharp," Dallas' hard-on-himself goalie Kari Lehtonen said after he made 41 saves in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over St. Louis. "It's great to see how when one part is not doing well, the other part picks up. That's the sign of a good team."

Another good point.

There have been good points all around in Dallas and Toronto so far. Eight of them, in fact. Only Washington has as many.

But, the Capitals were the Presidents' Trophy winners a year ago, while neither Dallas nor Toronto made the playoffs. Dallas was 20th in the League with 88 points and Toronto was 29th with 74.

Changes in the offseason and a hot start have made all the disappointing days from last season distant, no, forgotten memories.

The Leafs now have Clarke MacArthur, Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong, key forwards that played elsewhere last season.

MacArthur is tied for the League lead with 5 goals. Versteeg is averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time per game.

Dion Phaneuf is Toronto's captain after coming over in a trade late last season. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is trying to prove that at 33 he's not a washed up former champion.

Mike Komisarek is healthy. Phil Kessel is comfortable.

The Leafs are killing penalties at a 93.3-percent success rate.

"We have a lot of character in here," Kessel said.

Toronto was 0-7-1 at the beginning of last season. The Leafs didn't win their fourth game until Nov. 21, their 21st game of the season. They never won four games in a row, and only won three straight once.

"We sort of hung on and dwelled on those losses last year and it sort of snowballed," Komisarek said. "This year … I don't think we're sitting back and dwelling on our wins. We're focused on our next game. Guys are loose and guys are confident. We believe in each other."

Leafs Nation probably won't admit it, but maybe, just maybe, they could see this coming.

Toronto was 11-7-3 after the Olympic break last season, so things were looking up another playoff-less spring approached.

"It's an entirely different team," said coach Ron Wilson, whose team hasn't reached the postseason since 2004. "If we knew what would've happened in the banking system, the stock market wouldn't have crashed. It's irrelevant now."

Dallas didn't give off any signs at the end of last season. It was 9-9-3 after the Olympic break, hanging around only enough to keep a faint hint of hope for a playoff berth alive.

However, the Stars turned over a new leaf this summer by saying good-bye to Mike Modano and Marty Turco. It's hard to correlate their departure with a 4-0 start, but it has paved the way for Lehtonen to be the No. 1 goalie and other leaders, such as James Neal and Loui Eriksson, to step up.

Lehtonen saved the Stars in Saturday's shootout win after giving up two goals in the first 3:48 of the game. He has started all four games and has a 2.39 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

"It's great to see how when one part is not doing well, the other part picks up. That's the sign of a good team."
-- Stars' goalie Kari Lehtonen

"Your goaltender builds such a foundation for your team," Stars coach Marc Crawford told reporters Saturday. "The belief that was built by him (Saturday night) was infectious."

Eriksson already has four goals. He had 36 two seasons ago and 29 last season. Neal has six points (2 goals, 4 assists) after registering 55 last season, his second in the NHL.

In the oh-by-the-way category, Brad Richards, who centers Neal and Eriksson, leads the NHL with seven assists and his nine points are tied with Marian Hossa for tops in the League.

"We're fortunate that nothing has changed on the line from last year," Richards told "We're not trying anybody new on the line. My two wingers and myself are a year older and more experienced. I love our communication."

Dallas is ranked No. 18 in the power play and is 29th on the PK, but it hasn't hurt the Stars, largely because they've taken advantage in the shootout.

The Stars scored on four of six shootout attempts to pick up wins over the Islanders and Blues. Lehtonen has stopped four of five shootout attempts. They also beat the Devils in overtime on Eriksson's goal 1:36 into the extra session.

"We are gaining some momentum," Richards said, "and I really like how we're playing."

Ditto for the Leafs.

Four wins, zero losses. It makes sense.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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