It’s not common for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make hay during their annual California road trip, no matter how good or bad the trio of Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose are. So far though, this season’s edition has been different. They played one of their most complete games of the season against the Kings, broke through what felt like a goalie performance for the ages against the Ducks, and now have themselves lined up for a potential sweep if they beat the Sharks.
The problem, incredibly, is that the Sharks have been so bad that it’s making Leafs fans nervous about a let-down night.
Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Sharks
The Maple Leafs are heavy road favourites, sitting at -300 on the moneyline.
Maple Leafs vs. Sharks odds
|Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds
|Sharks Moneyline Odds
|Puck Line odds
|Maple Leafs -1.5 (-115), Sharks +1.5 (-105)
|Total Goals line
|6.0 goals (over -110, under -110)
|Jan. 6, 7:00 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: CBC / Sportsnet
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)
About the Maple Leafs (19-10-7 SU, 11-25 ATS, 19-16-1 o/u)
Toronto saved themselves from a game that seemed destined to live in infamy on Wednesday night, ripping victory from the jaws of defeat in the final few minutes of action. This isn’t to say that the Leafs were bad because, other than a few sloppy minutes near the beginning, they were dominant, taking 57 shots on the evening. But Lukas Dostal, who they blew out in their last game against Anaheim, completely flipped the script and had one of the best individual goaltending performances you’ll ever see, carrying a shutout bid to the 55th minute of play. The Leafs, down 1-0 due to a second-period Frank Vatrano shorthanded marker, desperately needed something and John Tavares found it in front of the net, potting his 12th of the year on the powerplay and forcing overtime.
In the extra frame, Auston Matthews sealed the deal, scoring his league-leading 30th goal of the season, which incredibly was his first game-winner. This puts them in a great spot today to potentially get a 5th and 6th point on this trip, but we all know this team’s history of making things difficult on themselves when facing heavy underdogs.
About the Sharks (9-27-3 SU, 15-24 ATS, 15-21 o/u)
The Sharks are an abject disaster right now. It cannot be understated how bad they are at the moment, and I know that only stands to scare Leafs fans even more. San Jose has lost ten games in a row, all in regulation, and has only scored fifteen goals across them. It’s the second-longest losing streak, and the longest regulation losing streak of the year for the league’s worst team, and they’ve shown no signs of being able to create their way out of this in recent games.
At the same time, this is also a team that has taken wins from the likes of Winnipeg, New Jersey, Vancouver, and Edmonton throughout the year, and again – the Maple Leafs are so, so bad at playing down to these sorts of opponents, whether it’s getting swept in the season series by Chicago, getting embarrassed by Buffalo, struggling against the Sens, or years of other moments like this. Toronto is at its best when they have to face a challenge, but really struggle to find it in themselves to shoot fish in a barrel when they see them.
Toronto’s last game against San Jose was a 3-1 home victory early last season. It took until early in the second period for either team to score a goal, with Auston Matthews breaking the ice with a net-front deflection and Matt Nieto responding shortly after. The game seemed destined for overtime, but Pierre Engvall put Toronto up with two and a half minutes remaining and Mitch Marner added an empty netter.
In a sense, this game was similar to the Ducks game the Leafs just played, though to a less extreme degree. Aaron Dell was great for the Sharks and almost stole the game, but Toronto ultimately broke through.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Pontus Holmberg – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Noah Gregor – David Kampf – Bobby McMann
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren
Starting In Goal
6-3-0, 2.20 GAA, 0.930 SV%
William Eklund – Tomas Hertl – Alexander Barabanov
Fabian Zetterlund – Mikael Granlund – Mike Hoffman
Luke Kunin – Logan Couture – Anthony Duclair
Justin Bailey – Ryan Carpenter – Filip Zadina
Mario Ferraro – Ty Emberson
Henry Thrun – Jan Rutta
Calen Addison – Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Starting In Goal
4-15-2, 3.84 GAA, 0.891 SV%
The Maple Leafs will likely roll out the same lineup as their last few nights on Saturday, including another start for netminder Martin Jones. Admittedly I was skeptical of the decision to play him in both nights of the LA/ANA back-to-back, as Toronto’s goalie depth right now can’t afford any increased risk on the injury front. Still, the plan went off without a hitch and Jones was fantastic, so all’s well that ends well on their end.
There is a chance we see Nick Robertson draw back in after being scratched and replaced by Pontus Holmberg, though there’s no confirmation of the sort.
Over in San Jose, it’s a very weird mix of names that are familiar and distant at the same time and guys that casual fans have likely never heard of. The blue line would probably take the average fan aback, with little familiarity in the first five, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic being far from his prime self as the six.
John Tavares over 3.5 shots on goal
Toronto has no updates on its injury front, with Ryan Reaves and Joseph Woll both still without a return timeline.
The Sharks have a long IR list, even with Logan Couture potentially making his season debut tonight, looking to return from a lower-body injury. Matthew Benning is out for the year, Nico Sturm is week-to-week with a mid-body injury, Oskar Lindblom is out with a lower-body injury. Givani Smith was placed on IR last week with a lower-body injury, as was Jacob MacDonald. Kyle Burroughs missed their last game with a day-to-day lower-body injury. It’s a tough set of circumstances for San Jose.
- Beyond being 0-10 in their last ten, the Sharks are 2-8 against the puck line, and 4-5-1 on the total goals line.
- Toronto are 6-4 against San Jose over their last 10 games, including a 6-4 record against the puck line, and an even split of overs and unders when it comes to total goals. This record goes back to October 2017. More recently, they’re 2-0-1 in their last three against the Sharks.
- The Leafs have hit the total goals over just one in their last five games.
Player Prop Trends
- The Sharks’ biggest issues in this slump have been offensively. Mikael Granlund is their top producer and playmaker with five assists and six points (tied with Mario Ferraro) in San Jose’s last ten, while Tomas Hertl leads the team in goals and shots with four and 26 respectively.
- Beyond that, it’s a mess. No forward other than Granlund has more than four points over the last ten, with several having two or fewer, even in on the second and third lines.
- The Leafs are starting to cool down a little bit too thanks to some low-scoring recent games. Auston Matthews “only” has two goals and two assists in his last five, and William Nylander “only” has three and three. Morgan Rielly has six assists in that stretch and nine in his last ten.
Wagers To Consider
- The boosted same-game parlay lineup isn’t great today. While none of the combos are unattainable, they aren’t super enticing. A combo of a Leafs win, Matthews goal, and Nylander goal can be got at +350. One where the Leafs win, Matthews takes 4+ shots, and Tavares scores sits at +275. If you believe in a Sharks upset, combining it with a Tomas Hertl goal gets you +700. That last one might be the most interesting if you believe in impending doom, though the rational brain knows that it’s a heavy payout for a reason.
- I wouldn’t be too shocked by a Mitch Marner goal tonight. He’s only got one in his past eight, but he’s taken 24 shots in his last six games and has been excellent on this trip. You can get him as an anytime scorer at +150.
- Despite another seven shots on goal against, bet365 is still setting John Tavares’ shots-on-goal line at 3.5 (-160). He’ll eventually fall under that again, but with 12 overs in his last 13, I’m not going to stop mentioning it until either he changes or they do.