The NHL has nine games on the schedule for Thursday night. In those games, one sticks out with two top teams in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks will meet for the first time this season on Thursday night. These two teams are near the top of the NHL to begin the new season. I expect this to be one of the best matchups for November 15.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have started out the season with a 12-6 record. The Maple Leafs are currently sitting in second place of the Atlantic Division. Toronto has won four of their last five games. The Maple Leafs are entering the third game of a four-game road trip. Toronto will play Anaheim on Friday night before heading back home on November 19.
The Sharks have gone 10-6-3 to open up the new season. San Jose is sitting in first place of the Pacific Division. The Sharks are coming off a really solid win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night. San Jose has had two straight wins and has won four of their last six games. The Sharks can continue their streak with another win against a top tier team.
San Jose and Toronto will meet one more time on November 28. The Sharks will visit Toronto in that matchup. With matchups close together, these two teams will likely try and get a feel for each other quickly into Thursday night’s matchup. The Maple Leafs are really strong on the road, which should give the Sharks some issues on Thursday night.
Last Season’s Matchups
The Sharks and Maple Leafs met for the first time this season on October 30 last season. San Jose hosted the matchup. Auston Matthews scored the lone goal in the first to get the Maple Leafs and early lead, but it was three unanswered goals by San Jose that would end up being enough. Frederik Andersen had a solid night, stopping 36 of 38 shots, but it was not enough for Toronto. The Sharks finished with a 3-2 win.
Toronto hosted the second meeting of the season between these two teams. The Maple Leafs saw Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri each score in regulation. Brenden Dillon and Chris Tierney each had a goal for San Jose to push this game to a shootout. Tyler Bozak scored the winning goal in the shootout to give the Maple Leafs the edge. Andersen had 33 saves for Toronto, while Martin Jones turned away 26 shots for the Sharks. The Maple Leafs ended up taking this game 3-2.
Each team won at home during the season series last season, but the Sharks earned the edge in the season series by getting a point in their road game. These two teams each underwent some changes during the offseason to try and strengthen their playoff chances, but I would expect another solid matchup.
The Maple Leafs have put up real solid numbers on special teams to begin this season. Toronto has scored on 28 percent of their power play opportunities. On the penalty kill, the Maple Leafs have stopped their opponent’s 83 percent of the time. Toronto is above average on both the power play and the penalty kill.
San Jose’s power play has struggled a little bit this season. The Sharks are scoring at a rate of 18 percent on the power play. San Jose has done extremely well on the penalty kill though. The Sharks have stopped team’s 88 percent of the time on the penalty kill. In total, San Jose has only allowed seven goals on the penalty kill this season.
I believe that the edge belongs to Toronto on special teams. The Maple Leafs have been better all-around on special teams, while most of the Sharks success has been on the penalty kill. The Maple Leafs power play will have a difficult matchup on Thursday night against San Jose’s penalty kill.
Frederik Andersen will likely get the nod in net for the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Andersen has posted a record of 10-5 in his starts this season. He has a save percentage of .934 and a 2.02 GAA in net this season. Andersen has done great this season and will be needed to have another solid night in net if Toronto is going to pull off the road upset.
I expect Martin Jones to start in net for San Jose. Jones has gone 9-4-1 this season in his 14 starts. His numbers have not been the best, as he has a .898 save percentage and a GAA of 2.79. Jones will need to have a good night against the Maple Leafs. Toronto has a lot of firepower and if Jones has another off night, it could be a rough showing for the Sharks.
I believe that even without Auston Matthews in the lineup, Toronto has the firepower to knock off the Sharks on the road. The Maple Leafs are 7-1 on the road this season and I would not be surprised if they get another against San Jose. Toronto has the hotter goalie and is playing better all-around on special teams.
BetOnline has San Jose listed at a money line of -133, which implies they will win this game 57 percent of the time. The Sharks are at home, which should give them a slight edge, but I believe these odds are too high. This gives plenty of value to the Maple Leafs. Toronto is an extremely strong road team and is playing really well this season. While San Jose is having a strong season as well, if Jones starts to slip up, I do not believe the Sharks can keep up with the Maple Leafs firepower. I am taking the road underdog.