Maple Leafs-Sharks: Toronto Dips Their Toes in the Shark Tank Tonight

Was El-HalabiContributor IDecember 2, 2008

Tonight in California, it will be a night of firsts for both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson.

It will be coach Ron Wilson's first trip back to San Jose since taking the head coaching job with Toronto in the offseason.

For general manager Brian Burke, it will be his first trip back to California after leaving the Anaheim Ducks midway through the season.

Holding a record of 9-9-6, but coming off of a pair of impressive wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and the surging Los Angeles Kings, Wilson will lead his troops into battle against a Sharks team that currently leads the league in points.

Since losing Wilson to the Leafs in the offseason, the Sharks haven't lost much else. Going into tonight's contest with a league best record of 20-3-1, this San Jose team is the current class of the NHL. Even without All-Star backstop Evgeni Nabokov for much of the season, the Sharks have been able to plug in other pieces and achieve the same results.

Their scouting department, a veritable factory for top-tier goaltenders, can once again be praised for having picked the diamond that is Brian Boucher out of the rough. The young goalie has performed admirably when called upon this season, and is outperforming almost every other goaltender in the league.

Another protege of the San Jose school of 'keepers, Vesa Toskala makes a trip back to where it all began for the Finnish phenom. Getting into top form, Toskala is riding two solid performances into this game, hoping to keep the momentum going. After a shaky start to the season, the diminutive Toskala has found his talent once again, and will prove to be a force between the pipes for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Playing the second of back-to-back games against a San Jose team that has been dominating its opponents may have many believing this will be a walk in the park for the Sharks. This Toronto team, however, has proven to be resilient—and may once again tonight.