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Maple Leafs v. Sharks: Final Boss Edition

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Colton Orr defeats mini-boss Matt Carkner in 16-bit SNES glory.
I'm assuming that most of you reading this have played an action adventure video game at some point in your life. The game starts you off with next to nothing in terms of inventory and skill, and you have to level yourself up throughout the course of the game.  You fight some easy bosses that gradually get more difficult as the game goes on, until you have mastered your skills and get to fight the end boss.

This is very analogous to the progression of the Leafs this past week and a half. They acquired new talents and inventory by adding Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and Fredrik Sjostrom; calling up Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg; and developing a PP and PK that doesn't make me want to vomit.  Think of the games against the Devils and Ottawa as playing the lesser bosses; the Devils are the second best team in the East, and the Senators were on an 11 game winning streak.  But now the true challenger emerges; the end boss; the San Jose Sharks.

Next Game

San Jose Sharks
@ Toronto Maple Leafs

Monday, Feb 8, 2010, 7:00 PM EST
Air Canada Centre

Complete Coverage >

Take a jump with me as we look deeper into this momentous challenge for the Leafs.

Regular season success; post-season failure. That has become the M.O. for the Sharks as of late. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they are meeting the Sharks during the regular season. Even more unfortunate is the fact that this may be the most dangerous Shark ever, and with more firepower than a WWII battleship.  Led up front by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and driver's education instructor Dany Heatley; the Sharks have put up a second league best total of 192 goals so far for an average of 3.31 a game. Only Washington is putting up more a game and they don't have nearly the same talent in net as the Sharks do with Evgeni Nabokov. Yikes!

The big line of Marleau, Thornton, and Heatley has combined for 85 goals so far this season; only 25 less than the current combined total of the entire Maple Leafs roster.  Yeah, that's impressive, and the reason that I feel tonight's game will be won by goaltending; for either team.  Nabokov has played in and started 50 games so far this season, and put up a fantastic .927 save% while facing the third highest number of shots at 1423.  He's pretty good, and the Leafs need to worry about beating him before they worry about shutting down San Jose's big three.

2009 - Evgeni Nabokov 50 2980 32 8 112 2.26 1535 1423 .927 2

San Jose's lineup according to The Daily Faceoff:

Marleau - Thornton - Heatley
Pavelski - Mitchell - Setoguchi
Clowe - Nichol - Ortmeyer
Shelley - Staubitz - ??

Boyle - Blake
Murray - Huskins
Demers - Joslin



For the Leafs, Mr. Zero himself JS Giguere is getting the start in net. And why shouldn't he? Two games in the blue and white; two shutouts.  Who said he was washed up again?  I think he's in his prime and just needed a change of scenery and a reunion with Burke and Allaire to get him going again. Time will obviously tell though.  When he joined the Leafs, he had a .895 save %.  Now he is sporting a .909. Very nice.  If the Leafs hope to provide the ACC with a win tonight, it's going to have to come on Giggy's broad, handsome shoulders.

2009 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere 22 1228 6 8 58 2.83 640 582 .909 3

Looking at the rest of the Leafs, I just have to say, keep doing that you've been doing. Aside from terrible mistakes at the end of the last New Jersey game; the Leafs have played 177 fantastic minutes in their last three games.  Keep up that kind of play, and they'll make things a lot easier on themselves.

There's been a slight personnel change for the Leafs as Viktor Stalberg got called up from the Marlies on Sunday and looks to have been slotted in Jay Rosehill's place on the 4th line. I don't feel this is where he belongs as he's not a fighter or a grinder, but with Orr already on the line Rosehill was redundant. So hopefully Stalberg injects some speed their and really steps up the forechecking.  Speaking of Orr, looking for him and San Jose's brawler Jody Shelley to throw down at some point during tonight's game, as Shelley already has 9 fights to his card this season.

Tonight's Leaf Lineup

Ponikarovski - Bozak -Kessel
Kulemin - Wallin - Sjostrom
Mitchell - Hanson - Stempniak
Stalberg - Primeau - Orr

Gunnarsson - Kaberle
Phaneuf - Beauchemin
Schenn - Exelby


Puck drops somewheres around 7:00pm. As always don't forget your SPG Picks and as always....