The Toronto Maple Leafs look to put their last outing well in the past, as they were outclassed by the Lightning on Monday. Their effort wasn’t anything to proud of, as they had to take a 6-2 loss. Sure the Lightning are a very good team, they are stacked more than anyone, but there are some occasions during that game where the Leafs looked disinterested.
The shorthanded goal by the Lightning, which was a 3-on-1 break because a shoddy line change, was unacceptable. Credit the Lightning for not giving up on the play and chasing down the free puck, while Leafs players decided to take a detour off the ice. It was a bad look, but Mike Babcock has enough time to get his team back on track before the playoffs. A performance like that isn’t going to cut it, not only against the Lightning, but most teams they figure to see in the playoffs.
Toronto gets to put forth a response against the Chicago Blackhawks at home this evening. We’ll see if it’s a good or bad response, but the Leafs are going to have to be ready for a Blackhawk offence that has plenty of ways to score goals. They may not know how to play defence at all, though the offence can ring up a scoreboard pretty quickly. Chicago are currently in the midst of a playoff race, as they hope to ride their quick strike offence all of the way to the postseason.
The Blackhawks are 6 points out of the playoffs, so it’s going to be difficult to achieve that, but not impossible. Get 2 points tonight and they’re right in the thick of things. If Corey Crawford had been healthy this season, the Blackhawks are likely in right now. With their offence playing how its been, it’s reasonable to assume that Crawford would have earned them a few more wins than they have now. Crawford is over the hill at this point in his career, but would have been better than the combo of Cam Ward and Collin Delia. Crawford is expected to be in net at Scotiabank Arena this evening. Head below for our free Blackhawks vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Blackhawks are coming off a drubbing of the Arizona Coyotes in a 7-1 win at United Center. It was their third straight win, so they have been holding their head above water recently. The return of Crawford certainly helps the Blackhawks’ chances, but I think he’s going to have to catch fire. Crawford enters with a 3.22 GAA and 0.901 save percentage.
He allowed an average of 4.3 goals per game in his first three starts off the IR, but responded with a goal against in each of his last two games. However, expect Crawford to see a lot more action around his crease this evening in Toronto. We should see a much better effort from the Leafs than the Stars and Coyotes, especially given that last try by the Leafs against the Lightning.
Note that the Blackhawks are 30th in the league with 3.7 goals against per game. The Senators are just 0.1 worse than the Blackhawks defensively. However, unlike the Sens, the Hawks actually have some scoring to help out with their defensive woes. Chicago ranks 8th with an average of 3.36 goals per game and have been on fire in their last ten outings, with 4.1 goals per game.
That said, wins are still going to be tough to come by when the defence is giving up 4 goals themselves. They will have to try and tame a Toronto offence that have notched 3.8 goals per game in their last ten. I can see the Leafs hitting at least 5 goals here. In their last meeting in October, the Leafs won a thriller by a score of 7-6 in overtime. It was back-and-forth action, which we should expect to see in this matchup as well. Chicago have gone an insane 23-2-1 to the OVER in their previous 26 games. It’s one of the craziest total runs I can recall in any sport. The safe play in Toronto looks like the OVER, as there should be ample scoring chances to get the final score to 8 or 9 goals.