It’s been a cold stretch that’s lasted too long and last night was another down night in terms of my NHL picks.
There was just one game on the schedule and I took the under 5.5 between the low-scoring Ottawa Senators and the NHL’s second-best home defense in the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Sens paper-thin offense showed up, however, scoring three times while the Jackets also scored three times in regulation and thus the game needed overtime.
The Jackets won the game on an Emil Bemstrom OT winner, but our pick was already sunk as soon as the Jackets tied the game 3-3 midway through the third.
While we dropped another unit last night, tonight’s 13-game NHL schedule provides a wealth of opportunity to get back on the winning track!
Season Record: 101-88-1
Now let’s take a look at this free NHL pick featuring the Maple Leafs vs. Lightning from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay!
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Betting Odds
- Maple Leafs (+165)
- Lightning (-190)
- Maple Leafs +1.5 (-150)
- Lightning -1.5 (+130)
- Over 7 (+115)
- Under 7 (-135)
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning NHL Pick Breakdown
Now let’s check in with each of these clubs before getting into my final pick!
The Maple Leafs have been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons.
After two disastrous outings in back-to-back 5-2 road losses in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, the Maple Leafs played their most complete game of the season in a 4-0 defeat of the Penguins in the rematch on Thursday in Toronto.
Then came the well-documented game on Saturday in which both Carolina Hurricanes netminders were injured and a 42-year-old zamboni driver and Scotiabank Arena emergency backup goaltender was forced into duty.
The Hurricanes stymied the Maple Leafs in defense of the amateur netminder and ended up delivering Toronto an embarrassing 6-3 loss that has many writing them off at this point in the season.
While the loss was embarrassing and drew plenty of boos from the home faithful, and rightfully so, the Leafs are likely thrilled to be hitting the road for this matchup despite facing the NHL-best Lightning.
The Maple Leafs enter this one as the NHL’s best road offense where they’ve averaged 3.58 goals per game on the season and fifth with a 23.3% clip on the power play away from home as well.
Of course, most of their issues stem from their work in the defensive end of the ice.
The Maple Leafs sit 25th with 3.42 goals against per game on the road and their road penalty kill has slipped to 29th with a 73.6% mark after going 0 for 3 against the Penguins on the PK in their last road action.
The Leafs do sport some quality possession metrics on the road, however.
At 5v5 on the road, the Maple Leafs rank fifth with a 51.67% Corsi For%, third with a 51.42% Scoring Chances For% and eighth with a 50.16% High-Danger Chances For%.
They’ve also received better goaltending on the road than they have at home, however, Frederik Andersen has struggled mightily since returning from a neck injury.
Andersen isn’t confirmed as tonight’s starter, but one figures he will get the nod as the undisputed No.1 for the team.
If he does, he will carry a 2.98 GAA and .906 Sv% into action across his 47 starts on the season, but he’s also posted an improved 2.76 GAA and .914 Sv% on the road in 21 outings with a 14-6-0 record to show for it.
That said, since getting back into the lineup after missing a few games with that neck injury, he’s posted an .878 Sv% that would look even worse if he didn’t notch that 24-save shutout in the aforementioned 4-0 home win over the Penguins.
In the other three games, he’s posted an .850 Sv% as well as an .800 Sv% over his last two starts on the road, allowing two goals each time.
He’s been victimized by his team’s lack of detail on defense, however it’s clear that Andersen also hasn’t been sharp himself of late.
The Lightning briefly regained their thrown as the best team in the NHL before the Boston Bruins decided to go on a tear of their own, but many would argue this is the team to beat again this season.
The Lightning won 11 games in a row of late, but interestingly have now dropped back-to-back games to the Golden Knights and Coyotes and were actually throttled by a 7-3 count in Arizona their last time out.
The Lightning have now allowed 12 goals over their last two games, both of which were started by a once-hot Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Still, this team is the best offense in the NHL on home ice, which is why you see the 7-goal total above versus the best road offense in the NHL.
The Lightning are averaging a cool 4.03 goals per game at home to pace the league by a wide margin in that department while their 31.6% clip on the power play at home also checks in as the best mark in the business.
The Lightning have also clamped down on the back end at home during their recent stretch of insanely-hot hockey as they sit just outside the top 10 at 11th with 2.72 goals against per game at home.
They could also give a potent Maple Leafs power play a difficult time tonight as Tampa ranks seventh with an 84.7% mark on the penalty kill on home ice, as well.
While the Leafs sport some quality possession numbers on the road, the Lightning are about the best possession team in the NHL at home.
At 5v5 at home, Tampa Bay checks in at first with a 55.73% Corsi For%, first with a 58.17% Scoring Chances For% and second with a 58.30% High-Danger Chances For%.
If you want to know why they’re the best home offense, look no further than those possession metrics.
Until late, the team was also getting some white-hot goaltending from the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Vasilevskiy.
The Russian netminder has turned in a 2.58 GAA and .916 Sv% and two shutouts on the season and near-identical home splits where he’s posted a 2.58 GAA and .914 Sv% on the season with an 18-5-1 record in 24 games.
Coming off a month of January in which he worked to an eye-popping 1.58 GAA and .948 Sv%, he’s slowed to a 2.75 GAA and .912 Sv% for this month.
Of course, his last two games in which he produced an .838 Sv% have blown what was once a productive month out of the water.
The last time people counted out the Maple Leafs they went home and played a well-rounded game en route to that 4-0 victory of the Penguins.
They followed it up with another stinker on Saturday as their inconsistent season continued, however.
Still, are they catching the Lightning at the best possible time since Tampa’s early-season struggles?
To be honest, Vasilevskiy’s .946 Sv% since the calendar flipped to January was due to regress, and it did over the last two games. He also won eight in a row, so we knew a step back was inevitable.
As a result, we have a potent Maple Leafs road offense coming in to face a cooled-off Tampa Bay defense and goaltender.
Of course, the high-octane Lightning offense is a major threat to the Maple Leafs’ poor road defense and Tampa already hung seven goals on Toronto way back on October 10th in Toronto.
This is a Maple Leafs team battling for their playoff lives. While that was also true in their three poorly-played losses in the last week and change, I believe they’ll come into this tough matchup hungry.
Tampa is arguably the best team in the NHL, but holes have been poked in their armor, their white-hot 11-game win streak is over and their goaltender is cold entering this one.
To me, I see some value in the Maple Leafs as big road underdogs where they’ve largely played well this season, and I’ll take them on the moneyline tonight.