Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Off to Face the San Jose Sharks
We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
Mar 11, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks left wing James Sheppard (15) tries to score on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) defends during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The Sharks have won three straight games against the Leafs.
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Leafs Injury Report
Joffrey Lupul is out with a lower-body injury.
Peter Holland is out with a lower-body injury.
Leo Komarov is doubtful with a shoulder injury.
David Booth is doubtful with a head injury.
Sharks Injury Report
Mike Brown is out with a lower-body injury.
Andrew Desjardins is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Mirco Mueller is out with an upper-body injury.
Raffi Torres is out with a knee injury.
Mar 11, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) deflects a shot from San Jose Sharks center Tommy Wingels (57) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The narrative surrounding the Leafs over this road trip has been their inability to put the puck in the opposing net, which is a bit of a problem. Sure they have outshot their opponent in their last four games, but that really does not mean anything if you are unable to get at least a goal or two. But have no fear because Matt Frattin has been recalled to help (sigh). Yes, Frattin has scored 10 goals in 22 games with the Marlies, but he has no points in the six games this season and I doubt that adding him will make much of a difference – maybe he can prove me wrong.
Mar 11, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) holds San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle (22) as he tries to control the puck behind Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
San Jose has lost four consecutive games at home, which is a rare occurrence because they usually thrive at home in the “Shark Tank”. The Leafs did not do well the last time they visited San Jose, losing 6-2 with Jake Gardiner scoring both goals in the game. The Leafs are still confident they can get out of their scoring funk and what is important is that they continue to work on the changes made with Peter Horachek. Frankly losing is not great, but at least they have looked more competitive than when they lost games 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets or 9-2 to the Nashville Predators.
Dec 3, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) carries the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The other issue that has been a major buzz in Toronto has been the trade rumours surrounding Phil Kessel, which you can read about here. All I will say about the rumours is that at this point something has to be changed and if they can get full value for a player like Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri, or Tyler Bozak then you are better off making a change now. The Leafs are not a contender right now, so why not try to get legitimate future stars that can be better than what we currently have? I would try to avoid moving your biggest trading chip (which is Kessel) because he is still a valuable player to your team and there is still a chance to work with him as a part of your core.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dec 3, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) gets past San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart (7) during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. San Jose defeated Toronto 4-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs SJ: 7 GP- 3 goals- 2 assists- 5 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs SJ: 5 GP- 1 goal- 2 assists- 3 PTS
James van Riemsdyk career vs SJ: 6 GP- 0 goals- 3 assists- 3 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs SJ: 23 GP- 4 goals- 10 assists- 14 PTS
Jake Gardiner career vs SJ: 3 GP- 3 goals- 0 assists- 3 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs SJ: 4 GP- Record: 1-2, 3.57 GAA- .876 SV%
James Reimer career vs SJ: 4 GP- Record: 1-3, 3.27 GAA- .916 SV%
San Jose Sharks
Mar 11, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) watches the puck go past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) on a first periodscore by San Jose Sharks right wing Brent Burns (88), not in picture, at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Thornton career vs TOR: 40 GP- 10 goals- 25 assists- 35 PTS
Logan Couture career vs TOR: 4 GP- 1 goal- 1 assist- 2 PTS
Patrick Marleau career vs TOR:18 GP- 8 goals- 8 assists- 16 PTS
Joe Pavelski career vs TOR: 6 GP- 5 goals- 3 assists- 8 PTS
Antti Niemi career vs TOR:4GP- Record: 3-1, 2.01 GAA- .925 SV%
Keys to Victory
Jan 14, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates with his team after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs just need to keep working on the changes to the system, which is to be more aware in all three zones. If the Leafs can try to force more turnovers in the neutral zone, then they can get more scoring chances which should lead to more goals. Against the Anaheim Ducks, the Leafs had too many turnovers that cost them dearly.
San Jose has a lot of offensive talent, so the best way to keep them from getting quality scoring chances is by taking away their time and space. That is how these Western Conference teams have been able to slow down and completely stop the Leafs offence.
Jan 14, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry (10) attempts a shot defended by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (left) and defenseman Dion Phaneuf (right) during the third period at Honda Center. The Anaheim Ducks won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs need to do a better job of defending the slot and the point blank chances that are really difficult for the goaltender to stop. Phaneuf and Cody Franson were eaten alive by the Ducks top line and if they do no make adjustments then the Sharks will do the same thing tonight.
Mar 11, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) fires the puck at Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. San Jose won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The goaltending battle is going to be crucial in this game. Whether it is Bernier or Reimer, they need to keep the Leafs in the game early, to give the offence a chance to get them ahead in the game. Niemi and Alex Stalock have not been great this season, but San Jose has been able to get by with their offensive talent.
At this point it is hard to say whether the Leafs can make the playoffs, but what fans are looking for in this game is a GOAL! Against the Sharks the chances will be easier, but a victory will be hard to come by.