Maple Leafs vs. Devils Pick – NHL January 6th
The Toronto Maple Leafs left it all out on the ice, but came up just a bit short against the Washington Capitals. Following a 5-4 win over the Red Wings in overtime at the Centennial Classic, the Leafs were on the losing side of a close one, 6-5 to the Capitals. The Maple Leafs grabbed a 4-2 lead heading into the 3rd period but watched their lead evaporate in the final frame. The Leafs still picked a point up from their meeting with the Capitals, so it didn’t all go to waste. It snapped a five-game winning streak for the Leafs, but note that they’ve picked up points in six straight games. Additionally, there’s only been one game where they didn’t pick up at least a point. The Maple Leafs are young and talented, with Mike Babcock getting the most out of his host of inexperienced troops. If he has them playing this well now, I expect the Leafs to go only go up. Barring some unbelievable meltdown in the front-office, the Maple Leafs have a promising future.
I think from here, the Leafs would benefit by adding a couple of proven veterans into the mix. While the Leafs have taken the brunt of a lot of jokes over the last decade, I’m pretty confident that this isn’t going to be a team others are going to be laughing at for much longer. Call me crazy, or I’m on drugs, but I could see Matthews and Marner getting the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup Finals eventually. Like I said, though, it’s dependent on how the front-office plays with their chips. And to be quite honest, this isn’t the same misfits running the show behind the scenes. The Leafs travel to the east coast to pay a visit to the 16-16-7 New Jersey Devils. .500 looks about right for the Devils, who are trying to buck their average play over the last several years. They’ll look to make it three in a row after defeating the Bruins and Hurricanes.
Thanks to some quality play defensively for the Devils, they picked up a couple of wins in their last couple of appearances. That was Devils’ hockey. For much of the season, though, they haven’t been playing like it. Note that the Devils are allowing an average of 2.90 goals per game. The Devils, dating all the way back to the 1990’s, thrived off their ability to play strong defensively. They won a Stanley Cup because of it, but it hasn’t been the case with them this season thus far. Cory Schneider has looked downright awful at times, posting the worst numbers of his time in New Jersey, which dates back to the 2013-14 season. He was spectacular in his opening act with the Devils, earning a 1.97 GAA in his rookie-year in New Jersey. He looked good the following two seasons as well, with a 2.26 GAA and 2.15 GAA. Those numbers have ballooned to 2.74 this season.
We will give him credit for how he handled the Bruins and ‘Canes, though. He allowed just 1 goal on 52 shots. It’s about time he finds a groove, we’ll see if it comes against the Leafs. They have been quite good at home this season, with a record of 10-4-2 in New Jersey. The home team has also dominated this series. Note that they’ve gone 10-1 in the last eleven meetings. I can see the Leafs dropping two in a row after that five-game winning streak. Hot and cold is what you come to expect from a young team. I like the Devils to edge past the Leafs on Friday night.
PICK: DEVILS TO WIN +100