The Carolina Hurricanes head back on the road, as they make the trek to Toronto for a clash with the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. It’s been a tough stretch for the Canes, who had to play four straight on the road, and then go home, only to go back on the road to Toronto. The Hurricanes went 2-3-0 during that stretch, which is probably going to be their season in a nutshell.
A lot of five-game stretches of 2-3 or 1-3 hockey is going to be pretty popular in Carolina. The opposite is going to ring true for the Maple Leafs, who are atop of the list as Stanley Cup contenders for the first time in well over a decade. The Curtis Joseph era presented a few maybe this is the year moments, but since then, it’s been an empty abyss in Toronto.
That was until the Leafs had the rights to the first overall selection in the NHL Draft. Without much debate, they selected Auston Matthews which immediately gave the Maple Leafs hope for years to come. Don’t forget about hiring Mike Babcock and a slew of other selections they’ve made in the draft. It’s all coming together for the Leafs, who I believe are another year off, but the possibility of them winning a Stanley Cup within the next five years is good.
I can’t believe I’m saying that, but this is a talented team. Their success in 2017-18, will come down to Frederik Andersen. There are still some improvements that must be made along the blue line, which they will address the following offseason, so Andersen has to be that buffer to fill the gap in the meantime. He’s been hot and cold, which is just the kind of goaltender he is. Andersen can hit his stride and turn into a wall, or allow goals any professional goalie should have had. Let’s get straight to the pick below.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Maple Leafs did a good job on Monday night, defeating the 1 loss LA Kings to advance to 7-2-0. They’ve beaten some quality teams this year, including the Blackhawks, Capitals, and now the Kings. It isn’t a fluke that the Leafs have 7 wins on their resume. Their offence has been an unstoppable beast at times, and despite the streaky Andersen, they’ve shown they can win tight low-scoring games, too. The Leafs are 1st in the NHL, averaging 4.44 goals per game. The next closest team is the Lightning who are scoring 4.10 per game.
Toronto enters with a record of 4-1-1 at home. They will be challenged by a Carolina team who are 3-3-1 overall and looking for a spark. Jeff Skinner has been one of the only guys on their roster doing much. He has already notched 5 goals and should lead the Hurricanes in scoring by a wide margin. Overall, the team is scoring 2.43 goals per game for 27th in the NHL. Skinner and the Hurricanes shouldn’t expect to win in Toronto tonight, though. I don’t care for their travel schedule lately, and need to find a way to upend the hottest offence in the NHL. I don’t believe they find that way.
PICK: MAPLE LEAFS (-150)