The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the road Tuesday night for a clash with the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank. The Maple Leafs will stay in California after tonight, with a stop in Anaheim and Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday. They’ll get a break from the road soon, as the Leafs will play six of their next seven games at home in Toronto. The Leafs are coming off a textbook 4-2 win against the Canucks on Saturday night.
Frederik Andersen struggled in the first period, but came up big with no goals allowed in the second or third frame. It’s absolutely necessary that Andersen gets his head together and starts playing well on a consistent basis in March. We’ve seen this from him before. He plays well for a game or two, and then completely goes off the rails for a couple weeks. That’s not going to work in the playoffs. Toronto is on a nice little run recently with wins in three straight games.
They didn’t do it against creampuffs either, as they dispatched the Lightning, Panthers, and Canucks. This coming after losing to the zamboni driver on February 22. Like I’ve said, that loss against the Hurricanes might be a blessing in disguise. The team was obviously humiliated and likely wanted to bury their heads in sand. Instead of burying their heads and getting beat down over the loss, the Leafs responded for a 4-3 win in Tampa Bay.
Sports don’t always add up, and losing to a zamboni driver at home then beating the Lightning three days later is a perfect example. Effort certainly had something to do with it, and the look on Sheldon Keefe’s face at the conclusion of the Hurricanes wrote that out. A translation wasn’t required. I don’t think he had to say anything in the locker room to get his point across to the team.
Whatever Keefe did worked, because the Maple Leafs have looked like a different team since. That win over the Panthers was particularly important, as they try to fend them off for No. 3 in the Atlantic. The Leafs won’t be catching the Lightning, but they won’t have to worry about it if this 5-point lead holds up. San Jose will not be participating in the playoffs. Although, at least they’ve been showing signs of life recently.
The Sharks have won their last two games following a five-game losing streak. They traded Patrick Marleau and got Logan Couture back from injury. Marleau has done a lot for the Sharks, but he just doesn’t have anything left in the tank. I’m not sure what the Penguins were doing there. The Sharks might play better without his older legs slowing them down, but we’ll see if they show improvements in March. Head below for our free Maple Leafs vs. Sharks pick.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. San Jose Sharks Betting Odds:
Maple Leafs vs. Sharks Prediction:
Everyone is waiting for the Maple Leafs to hit a wall again and fold up like a cheap lawn chair. Despite beating the Lightning, Panthers, and Canucks, the verdict is still out on the Maple Leafs. That includes Maple Leafs’ fans who aren’t sure which direction this team is going to go in. They can be awfully hot and cold. As long as they don’t face the Bruins in the first-round of the playoffs, there might be some confidence around Toronto that they can win a series.
The Leafs have the offence to beat just about anyone in the NHL. When they’re feeling good, the Leafs are capable of pouring on the goals in a hurry. The Leafs are leading the NHL in goals scored per game with 3.52 goals a contest. They hold a 0.1 goal advantage over the Lightning in the goal scoring department. However, the Leafs do not have Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes, or a consistent enough defence like the Lightning.
The Leafs have Andersen, who is a polarizing figure in Toronto. Being the goaltender of the Maple Leafs is not an easy job in that market. Over the years, goalies have suffered a brunt of criticism in Toronto. If only they didn’t trade Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft in 2006. Rask was a first-round selection of the Maple Leafs in 2005.
And as they say, the rest is history. Andersen enters San Jose with a 2.96 GAA and 0.906 save percentage in 50 games. Having said that, he’s fully capable of striking gold and getting really hot. We’ve seen him do it in the past, so we’ll see if Andersen gets to that point. If he does, the Leafs are going to be in business next month.
Andersen and the Leafs may not have to worry about the Sharks tonight. They don’t pack an offensive punch and should be easy to contain. Don’t tell them that, though, because the Leafs have a knack for playing down to their opponent. The Sharks are 28th in the NHL with 2.57 goals scored per game. They’ve managed to find the back of the net an average of only 2.4 times in their previous ten outings.
The Sharks haven’t been particularly strong in their defensive zone either, as they’ve allowed 3.2 goals per game for 25th in the league. I’m not expecting the Leafs to hit a wall, at least not at the Shark Tank in San Jose tonight. Look for the Sharks to compete, but it likely won’t be enough. Toronto gets their fifth win in a row over the Sharks in this one.