The inconsistent Toronto Maple Leafs will be on the ice once again Thursday evening, but it’s anyone’s guess as to which teams shows up against the Kings.
A string of three convincing and promising wins calmed the tension in Leafland, but another ‘no show’ performance Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, has the collective collars tightening once again. The Leafs are heavily depleted on the back-end, missing three of their top four defenders. Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Cody Ceci all remain out injured, and with no help in sight – handling speedy forwards of the opposition continues to be an issue.
The Kings meanwhile sold off a lot of their key pieces at the deadline. This is not a playoff-bound team, but it remains a group that continues to work hard and get solid results. They have won three straight contests, upsetting some good teams along the way too. They took it to the Golden Knights their last time out on Sunday, and their blend of youth and speed is giving teams difficulty. Head coach Todd McLellan has ensured that though his group is only playing for pride, they’re still playing hard and embracing their role as spoiler.
With the desperate Leafs seeking out points to punch their ticket to the playoffs, the Kings should be salivating at another chance to add to their misery. With the exception of veteran forward Jeff Carter, the Kings are a young and healthy group. Cal Petersen has provided them with solid goaltending of late, and this late-night contest has all the makings of a prime upset spot. For further details and analysis, read on below the odds for a full tactical breakdown and betting prediction for Toronto and L.A.
Maple Leafs vs. Kings Betting Odds:
Toronto Maple Leafs (-180)
@ Los Angeles Kings (+160)
Over 6.5 (+104)
Under 6.5 (-117)
Maple Leafs vs. Kings Pick:
Plain and simple, this underdog price right now on the L.A. Kings is a tad ridiculous. Despite some of their lineup subtractions over the past week or so, their blend of youth and speed has likely enhanced their play. They are for the most part controlling the puck in many of their recent games, and head coach Todd McLellan is enjoying coaching this hungry group. They’ve defeated the Golden Knights and Penguins over the past week, and a win against the desperate and depleted Maple Leafs would be another big victory.
For the Leafs, it truly is a mystery as to which team will show up. Though they can generate offense at even strength unlike few other teams in the league, their defensive play, attention to detail, and overall attitude without the puck – remains a huge cause for concern. It makes them vulnerable each and every night, and likely why they can never really be considered to be such lofty road favourites. The Kings have the speed to skate with Toronto’s rapid forward group, and Auston Matthews’ line should see a healthy dose of Los Angeles’ shutdown pair, Ben Hutton and Drew Doughty.
Though Toronto needs to win a game like this, the lack of urgency in their game over the past few months is telling. There’s something rotten within this group, and though they might not endure a slump that sees them fall out of the playoff picture – this isn’t a squad that should be counting on a lengthy spring run at the Cup.
Expect the Kings to use their rested legs and speed to get a lot of pucks beyond the untested and frankly bad, Toronto defensive group. The Leafs are susceptible to giving up many high quality chances, both via the rush and the cycle game. Expect Los Angeles’ top line of Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown to use their big bodies to wear down the Leafs’ D corps and put a lot of pucks in the direction of the struggling Frederik Andersen.
The Leafs might have the talent-edge over a ton of teams in the NHL, but it’s doing them no good right now with their knack of falling behind early, and casual approach to playing without the puck. Expect the Kings to relish another chance at taking down one of the league’s best, and given their recent shot metrics – this should be a tighter line. As lofty home underdogs, take a shot on the Los Angeles Kings to get the job done on Thursday evening.