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Sharks at Leafs Preview: Just some young guns

The Sharks take on Patty Marleau and his two new sons, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Toronto Maple Leafs center William Nylander (29) chases the puck into the corner in front of San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the first period of the regular season game held Feb. 28, 2017 at SAP Center in San Jose. Photo by Allan Hamilton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks roll into Toronto tonight as they take on the Maple Leafs in the second game of their Great White North road trip. Coming off an impressive 4-1 against Carey Price’s Montreal Canadien’s team, the men in teal hope to keep the wins coming.

After falling 6-0 to the Dallas Stars on New Year’s Eve, the Sharks stepped up their offensive game for 2018. The young guys Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc don’t seem to get the praise they deserve for filling in some of the offensive voids that were left by Patrick Marleau. Timo Meier netted two of the four goals scored on Tuesday night.

The help provided by the young guys is certainly important, but let’s not forget the Sharks offensive core that falls into the hand of Joe Thornton. Jumbo Joe leads the team in points this season with 27, even coming off of a major off-season knee surgery. Timo Meier paired on the first line with the Thornton and Joe Pavelski seems to give the Sharks the offensive edge they’ve lacked earlier in the season. Also, I think you’ll be happy to hear the power play has found its way back from the dead; the San Jose power play is currently ranked fifth in the NHL.

While San Jose is on the up, Toronto is currently struggling. The Leafs fell short to the Vegas Golden Knights 6-3 on New Year’s Eve, and again on Tuesday losing 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I don’t think this is a reason to celebrate though, Sharks fans. Vegas and Tampa have both proved to be powerhouses so far, Vegas beating the Sharks in overtime in November and Tampa Bay sweeping the series against them earlier this season.

Toronto is a hub for young talent. Auston Matthews leads the team with 31 points in 31 games played this season. Patrick Marleau’s other adopted sons, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, are close behind with 29 and 28 points respectively. What they lack in a top-notch defense they make up for with Frederik Anderson between the pipes. Anderson’s save percentage is sitting pretty at a .921%.

The last time these teams met was for Patty’s emotional homecoming back in October. I was at SAP that night and may or may not have shed a few tears myself. The Sharks pulled off a 3-2 win, holding the Leafs to only 18 shots on goal.

Here are three questions for tonight:

Can the Sharks hold off the Leaf’s young and rowdy offense?

This will certainly be a challenge, especially because the Leafs are coming off a three-game losing streak. Aside from the typical goal scorers (Matthews, Marner, and Nylander), Marleau has a lot to play for tonight. Patty has 24 points on the season, and I’m sure this game will bring out his offensive edge we all know so well. The Sharks’ defense has to come through with their A-game tonight if they want to go two for two on the Canadian road trip. Keeping the penalty kill hot will also be helpful tonight.

Will the Sharks capitalize on the Leaf’s shoddy defense?

The Leafs lack a top-shelf defenseman. No matter how on point their offense is, they can’t seem to get the support they need from their D-men, keeping them from being the Stanley Cup contender I thought we’d see coming off the 2016 season. The Sharks, on the other hand, have been slow to score this season. Coming off a four-goal win over the Montreal Canadiens who have one of, if not the best, goaltenders in the league seems promising. Keeping the offense hot against a not-so-hot team defensively can lead to a satisfying win tonight.

Battle of the young forwards: who will come out on top?

The match up between San Jose’s young guys and Toronto’s will be a fun one. Auston Matthews’ 31 points in 31 games seem to be unbeatable, but with Timo Meier finding his offensive footing, we could see him shine tonight. Meier only has 12 points on the season, but if he continues to stay on the top line with the Joes, I can only see that number rising. Here’s to a game full of young talent. It will absolutely be a fun one.

Bold prediction: Martin Jones will pull off a shutout against the Leafs. Maybe I’m crazy but I feel good about this, okay?

Please leave us some bold predictions in the comments, I would love to hear what you think tonight will look like. Don’t forget to check back later for the game thread and lines for tonight’s game!