GDT: Into the Shark Tank

GDT: Into the Shark Tank

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James Reimer and the Maple Leafs venture into San Jose tonight hoping to match the infamous four-game win streak that began this season.  They probably couldn’t have picked a better time to visit the struggling Sharks.  A perennial contender, San Jose has not yet found their stride this campaign and has recently hit a four-game skid that has seen them shutout twice.  Toronto fans should be worried by a losing streak that is bound to stop soon for a talented team.

The Matchup Stats

Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley are all on pointless streaks of at least three games.  These same players are on pace for 57, 70 and 71 points respectively.  Expect each of those figures to climb by at least 10 points by the season’s end.  That means all three forwards will be seeing some hot streaks in the second half of this season, and the Leafs will have to hope it doesn’t begin tonight.  Joe Thornton in particular has feasted on Toronto to the tune of 7 points in his last three games against the Leafs.  Always threats, the dangerous Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski have recorded a goal per game in their recent history against the Blue and White.

The number of streaking Leafs is currently hefty, so I’ll spare you the cheap thrills of listing them here.  It is interesting to note that Dion Phaneuf has thrown down 9 points in his last 11 games against the Sharks.  This is similar to the prowess he has displayed against a number of Western Conference teams in his career, obviously because of the many times he met them as a member of the Calgary Flames.  However, it does serve as a noticeable reminder of the elite offensive level Dion can perform at.  Whether he will display that type of production in a Toronto uniform has yet to be seen.  On a more positive note, James Reimer gets the nod again in an effort to continue with his winning ways, which have seen him accumulate a 1.90 GAA and 0.945 SV% thus far.

Strategical Keys

Toronto’s coaching staff hopefully prepared their centermen well for tonight, as they’ll have a tough task facing off against the 2nd overall faceoff team.  The Sharks boast an impressive 53.5% at the dot.  At their best, San Jose uses this to their advantage, especially to benefit their 4th best powerplay (clicking at  22.2%).  Luckily the Leafs will have it easier against the Sharks penalty killers, who have not been their usually proficient themselves thus far (still a respectable 19th overall).

As such, the Leafs will need to continue the team basics that have served them so well recently.  This includes mobilization of the defense and an increased involvement from these blueliners, best evidenced in yesterday’s win over the Kings.  It will also require the consistent team speed that has shocked more than a few Western Conference defenders.  Of course, they will also need more solid play from the surprising James Reimer.

Gameday Quotes

Leafs Nation will be happy if Ron Wilson has to repeat his post-game from last night. Verbatim.

“I thought we played a very good road game … The ‘D’ started moving pucks and jumped into the play. Each line scored a goal, so it was huge for us.”