Maple Leafs @ Sharks
The Shark Tank, San Jose
Fear The Fin
The Maple Leafs' California road trip comes to an end tonight with a stop in San Jose where they will play their second of two games for the season against The Sharks. At their last meeting on December 17 The Leafs lost 4-5 on a Brent Burns goal in overtime. That was also the game where Garret Sparks was injured.
The Sharks have an 18-18-2 record this season under their new head coach Peter DeBoer. DeBoer replaced Todd McLellan who was released last June and wound up in Edmonton. DeBoer's Sharks are still pretty much the same squad that McLellan failed to take to the playoffs in 2014-15. They don't appear to be faring much better this season. The Sharks 38 points places them second last in the Western Conference, ahead of only the LOLOilers. Of course, since the Pacific division overall beyond the Kings is so terrible, they are still only three points out of a playoff spot.
Do the stats show any signs of progress with DeBoer?
Something has definitely changed. According to War On Ice, while '5on5 scoring chances/60' are at their lowest for the team since data is first available in 2008-09, '5on5 high danger chances/60' are actually up since last season from 11.8 to 12.6, which is second in the whole league. Even the raw base stats show good results. Both Marleau and Thornton are keeping pace with prior seasons, and Brent 'wookie' Burns is on pace for a career year; already about to break his goal scoring record.
One setback for The Sharks this season was the loss of Logan Couture who broke his ankle in early October, and then suffered another injury in December. Couture is now back, but has managed to contribute only 4 assists in the 8 games he has played.
Another setback has been goaltending. After letting free agent Antti Niemi walk at the end of last season, The Sharks traded their 2016 first round pick for Martin Jones. Jones arrived from the Kings via The Bruins through a complicated series of trades at the end of June. Unfortunately, Jones hasn't worked out well for The Sharks. In the 32 games played so far this season Jones has a below league average sv% of 0.910. According to War On Ice, The Sharks 5on5 sv% is actually the worst in the NHL. At the same time it should be noted The Sharks '5on5 shots against/60', and '5on5 high danger scoring chances against/60', are among the lowest in the NHL. Clearly The Sharks defenceman are doing their job well, but once the puck has passed them it's open season on the net. Trading that pick may come back to haunt them at this years draft. Imagine if it wins the lottery.
This is where I would normally embed tweets from the media with updates on the Leafs roster and lines, but all is quiet on that front so far today. I will assume the lines will be somewhat similar to what they were at the game in Los Angeles, with Bernier alternating in the net.
Projected Maple Leafs' lines
Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - P.A. Parenteau
Daniel Winnik - Mark Arcobello - Joffrey Lupul
Shawn Matthias - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes
Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Martin Marincin - Roman Polak
Last game's Sharks lines form Fear the Fin
The Sharks have recalled Chris Tierney from the AHL so he may draw in tonight, perhaps replacing ex-Leaf Mike Brown given the Leafs record of almost no fights this season, but more likely replacing Zubrus.
#SJSharks said Zubrus is dealing with a minor injury. Is day to day. Plan is to get Tierney in for tomorrow's game vs. Leafs.— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) January 8, 2016