San Jose starts a four game road trip in tough barns. First up, it’s the Sharks against, the young and up-and-coming Toronto Maple Leafs in the unofficial hockey capital of the world. Here’s 14 things you need to know before Team Teal drops the puck with the Leafs at 4pm.
1. Never Forget the Last Time
These teams played in January. 7-0 win for San Jose. However, this was in the middle of the meltdown. Put it this way. Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer, Dion Phaneuf, Nick Spaling, and Roman Polak were still in Maple Leaf Blue.
2. Game Time Decision on D-Men
After the morning skate, Sharks defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and David Schlemko have declared themselves ready to go for tonight’s game. Head Coach Peter DeBoer says, we’ll see before we drop the puck. Vlasic sat out the entire third period, along with only taking three shifts in the second period in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Carolina. Schlemko has been out with a lower body injury has missed three games after blocking a shot in a win over Montreal.
3. A Great Run But…
San Jose enters “The Six” having won seven of their last ten games. But they sit in the first wild card position in the Western Conference. However, a win tonight could vault San Jose into first place in Pacific Division based on the number of regulation/overtime wins.
4. Defensively Sound
In those last ten games, San Jose has allowed 19 goals. Averaging under two goals per game is absolutely great. Team Teal has the fourth fewest goals allowed in the NHL only behind Columbus, Washington, and Minnesota. San Jose has only let 61 goals in 28 games.
“I don’t know if a coach is ever pleased all the way defensively, but we’ve come a long way,” PDB said. “We started the season a little loose, we weren’t scoring, and we kind of reset and tried to dial our defensive game in a little bit. We tried to get a 1-0, 2-1 type mindset and I think that’s paid off for us.”
5. Offensively on the “Schnide”
While it’s been a great defensively season, the offense has stalled. The Sharks are ranked 5th worst in the NHL in putting the puck in the net. Logan Couture has stepped up his game lately, Kevin “Depositing Pucks in the” Labanc has been coming on strong with consecutive games turning on the red light.
However, guys like Mikkel Boedker (November 1), Melker Karlsson (November 3), Joel Ward (November 23), Joonas Donskoi (October 29), each have two goals on the year. In fact, outside Ward, Boedker, Karlsson and Donskoi all have been on their schnides before Kevin Labanc got called up the first time from the Barracuda. Throw in no goals from Micheal Haley this season it’s been frustrating for lighting the lamp.
6. Scorching Up The Scoresheet
There is good news offensively. Brent Burns has eleven points in his last eleven games (six goals and five assists) along with Couture’s eight points in his last seven games.
7. Jones to Dell?
No, it’s not some weird goof up power play goal hack in NHL 17. Expect Martin Jones to start tonight in Toronto, then have Aaron Dell to go tomorrow in Ottawa while Jones finishes the rest of the road trip.
8. Lining Up the Squad
This is expected to be the lineup tonight:
Marleau – Thornton – Pavelski
Donskoi – Couture – Ward
Boedker – Tierney – Labanc
Nieto – Wingels – Karlsson
Vlasic – Braun
Martin – Burns
Dillon – Schlemko
9. Oh Toronto, You Are Getting There
This club has a great young nucleus. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner slowly looking like megastars. Toronto’s two top picks from the last two drafts have had the ups and downs of a rookie campaign, but there is such an upside. Slowly but surely what has been referred to as the “Shana-plan” is going along fairly well. They may not make the playoffs but these two along with William Nylander will be making the longest Cup drought go away sooner than later.
10. Auston Awesome Baby, Yeah!
No, we’re not talking Powers, although Matthews is getting powerful. Six goals in his last eight games after a lengthy drought that was after his four goal opening night.
11. Kadri Will Be a Bugger
It is expected that the Nasim Kadri – Leo Komarov – Connor Brown line will get the shutdown assignment on the “Double Joe & Patty Line” tonight. Kadri who made his NHL debut against San Jose in 2010 is up to the challenge.
“Just experience, learning how to play against the best players and just being responsible,” Kadri stated.
12. Frederik Faces Familiar Finatical Foe
Former Anaheim Duck Frederik Andersen will be in the crease for the Leafs tonight. Always been a tough netminder to crack for the Sharks, Andersen has dealt with ups and downs in his first season in Toronto. Lately he’s been rolling with a 5-3-1 record with a 1.89 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his previous nine games.
13. Nine Out of Ten Games Say The Sharks Should Win
Team Teal is 9-1-0 in their last ten matches against the Leafs. Overall, San Jose is 20-20-5-0 all time in the regular season vs. Toronto. Of course, they did have one classic playoff series when the Maple Leafs played in the West back in 1994.
Of course, long time Sharks fans who up until advancing to the Cup Final last year won’t forget the post that sent shockwaves to San Jose as to how close the upstart Sharks almost went to the Western Conference Final in their third season.
14. Join Us For Pucknology After Dark
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