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Islanders vs. Maple Leafs Pick – NHL December 29th

There is optimism in Toronto and for good reason, the Leafs are starting to show major signs of turning the ship in the right direction. The captain of that ship has been head coach Mike Babcock, who is doing wonders with this team. I know you’re going to say the Leafs are below .500 and have a record of 13-14-3-4, which is true, but you need to think for a second the kind of talent they have on their roster. There are some good pieces there. James van Riemsdyk has some talent. Kadri has his moments. But from top to bottom, there are holes there on paper. Take the goaltending situation in Toronto, there has been no consistency. James Reimer has looked good, but been injured the past few weeks and absent. Jonathan Bernier despite a productive appearance against the Islanders last game, has been a big liability. The Leafs needed to go to the minors and look to Garret Sparks to patch up the net, but he too was injured leaving the Leafs shorthanded. Then in came Ray Emery to serve for the Marlies. In other words, the Leafs are doing well considering the circumstances. It is a testament to Mike Babcock in my opinion.

Once the talent starts to come into Toronto, we will start to see it adding up into wins. Right now the Leafs are still in rebuild mode, it’s been a while, and Mike Babcock is leading them in the right direction. The Leafs have earned a point in six of their last seven games. In the one they didn’t, they lost by just a goal to the Coyotes, a game in which they outplayed the Coyotes in. Tonight is the final game of the home-and-home against the New York Islanders. The first game in Brooklyn came up aces for the Leafs, as they won it by a score of 3-1. Those are the kind of games that the Leafs were not winning earlier in the season. Now with a little bit of confidence they are starting to come around. The Leafs were generating chances, but the puck wasn’t finding the back of the net. Now we see some bounces going their way. It would be a huge win for the Leafs if they could knock the Isles off back-to-back.

N.Y. Islanders vs. Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Pick

Tonight is the long awaited return of James Reimer for the Leafs in net. Before having to sit out with an injury, Reimer was playing well with a 2.01 GAA and 7-4 record. He was the guy that stole some games for the Leafs. When he had to sit out, the opposite impact was occurring. Instead of stealing games, Bernier was simply giving them away. So, with a healthy Reimer, I do wonder where the Leafs would be right now record wise. Probably above .500 I feel.

I think the Isles felt somewhat over confident against the Leafs the other night. They saw Bernier was in net and played with the attitude of this should be an easy one. I expect a better effort from the Islanders tonight. The Islanders are averaging a healthy 2.31 goals against, compared to the Leafs 2.65 goals against. Reimer should be a little rusty coming back in his first game action in weeks. The Leafs will be fine in the long run in the future, but for tonight, I think the Isles get a split with the Leafs.

PICK: ISLANDERS TO WIN -120