The Toronto Maple Leafs take their show on the road to Winnipeg, Manitoba where they will put their display of youth and talent on display. The Leafs are expecting to make massive leaps forward this season, but the real treat for them is going to take place in a year or two. They are especially young, but hold a ton of talent. They are going to improve over last season; however, I expect their payoff to come in a couple of years. Let this be a feeling out process for the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Matthews felt the Senators out in his first night in an NHL game, scoring 4 goals in a 5-4 overtime loss for the Leafs. Marner got his first goal of the season in the ensuing game on Saturday night. With some experience to go along with their kind of skillset, the Maple Leafs are sitting on a promising future.
If the Maple Leafs landed Steven Stamkos in the offseason, they would have immediately been a contender. Stamkos ultimately stayed with the Lightning in Tampa, which I can’t really blame him for doing. The Leafs should be just alright without Stamkos, but like I just said, they would have probably been a shoe-in for the playoffs with him in the lineup. Offense isn’t going to be the Leafs’ problems this season, however could you imagine them with Stamkos? In the long run, it may payoff for the Leafs, because there is some money that would have went to Stamkos that can go to the defence.
Defence will be at the root of the problem for Toronto this season. Goals are going to be easy to come by, but they’re going to have to turn the red light on an average of 4 times a night to be a contender. The Leafs’ defence should routinely give up around 3 goals per game, so it’s just basic math to figure that one out. I don’t expect the Jets to improve much this season, regressing after they made the playoffs two years ago. The biggest problem with the Jets is attracting free agents to come and play in Winnipeg. Winnipeg isn’t the most attractive destination, so it leads to a difficult pitch for management. The Jets will be searching for their first win of the season against the Leafs tonight at home.
I said often that the Jets were the definition of averageness last season. They played .500 hockey right from the get-go and ultimately finished with a record of 35-39-9 which was par for the course in Winnipeg. The Jets saw Evander Kane go to Buffalo following their playoff appearance, muddying the chances of them getting in more difficult the following year. As I said, the Jets aren’t attractive world class talent, so losing a guy like Kane did hurt them.
The Jets are going to be stuck in a state of flux this season once again. I don’t foresee them improving much on what they did a year ago. Winnipeg was 22nd in the NHL in goals against last season, allowing an average of 2.88 goals per game. The Jets have surrendered 4 goals each of their first two games of the 2015-16 season. Conversely, they have scored an average of 3 goals. The Leafs were 24th defensively last season, and should continue to struggle this year, but their offense is going to be able to carry them. Thus far they’ve scored 4 goals per game and allowed 3. After both teams had 4-1 finals their last time out, I think we’re going to see more goals tonight. It should be an entertaining matchup, with the game going OVER the total.
PICK: OVER 5.5 GOALS (+105)