Toronto Maple Leafs at San Jose Sharks: Game # 12
Location: Patrick Marleau’s old place
Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet, NBC-SCA
Opponent SBNation Site: Fear the Fin (the best named SBNation site)
So here we are, at the tearful reunion of Patrick Marleau and the team he joined the year Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were born. I guess we know exactly what you can do in the length of time he played for a team he still loves. And really wants to beat.
Don’t kid yourself, the drive to win overpowers the love for the logo on the front of the sweater for every NHL player, or they wouldn’t be there. But I bet he has a very good dinner with his oldest friends in the game. When Matthews and Marner are his age, they’ll be on the ice in Toronto everyday, so they won’t need to catch up.
Forget the future though, it comes at you whether you like it or not. The here and now is a game versus the Sharks.
I’ve watched a bit of one Sharks game this year, and what struck me was the rookie playing top pair with Brent Burns. Joakim Ryan is not much of a goal scorer, but he’s out there with Burns, he doesn’t need to be. He’s an interesting player, born and raised in New Jersey, he used his dual citizenship to play junior hockey on the national teams for Sweden. He’s turned an NCAA career two good seasons in the AHL into a spot on an NHL team, and I thought he was very good.
So far this season, the Sharks are a little bit better than the Leafs in the Corsi department. They’re a touch better at both shots for and against, and the overall percentage at five-on-five has them a few slots ahead of the Leafs in the top 10. If you score adjust those numbers, the Sharks rise to third and the Leafs fall to thirteenth. A lot of models predicted the Sharks to be one of the best teams in the west this year, so this should not surprise as much as it likely does.
This is not going to be an easy game to win.
However, the Sharks are running a record of 5-5-0, have only 10 points and are third from the bottom in the western conference. That’s also three points out of a playoff spot and third in the Pacific. Parity is making them look bad, but don’t fall for it.
They also have a low shooting percentage and save percentage which is not likely to persist. Regression doesn’t always come around when you want it, however. (I wish someone had told the Hurricanes they didn’t have to fix their shooting percentage issues in Toronto, but no one thought to mention it, I guess.)
Toronto Maple Leafs
The standard configuration, and the reported lineup for tonight as it turns out.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - Connor Brown
Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak
San Jose Sharks
Joonas Donskoi - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson - Logan Couture - Tomas Hertl
Mikkel Boedker - Chris Tierney - Kevin Labanc
Timo Meier - Ryan Carpenter - Joel Ward
Joakim Ryan - Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon - Tim Heed
About that Leafs lineup. Who knows at this point? It depends on Mike Babcock and the sports science people who he says told him to sit Matt Martin and James van Riemsdyk.
If I were betting, I’d say one of the two of Josh Leivo and Kasperi Kapanen will play, but not both of them. I also think that Mitch Marner on the fourth line might be over, but you never know.
When everyone rolls out of bed in California and hits the rink, we’ll update you with lineup news.
Edited to add: people are up and about and skating, and the standard configuration of Leafs lines listed above is exactly what is reported to be hitting the ice tonight. Both Matt Martin and James van Riemsdyk are back in, and Mitch Marner and Connor Brown are swapped back to their original spots.