In the marquee game of the evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs travel to Pittsburgh for a meeting with the Penguins. The Maple Leafs feel like they’re on to something special, something similar to what the Pens first accomplished back when they drafted Sidney Crosby. The Penguins drafted Crosby back in 2005, and the rest is history in Pittsburgh. From that point on, a switch was flipped to the ON position and the Pens have been a major contender since.
There were some ugly years in Pittsburgh prior to Crosby showing up to the party. Nothing to be excited about, the arena was empty, and the future was in the hands of drafting properly. The Penguins didn’t have to second guess their pick with Crosby, that was the easy part. They did a tremendous job adding other pieces to complement Crosby, including Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. Sound familiar?
The Maple Leafs, in the hockey mecca of Toronto, were basement dwellers since around Ed Belfour was in net for the Leafs. It was clear that they had to tank to secure a guy like Auston Matthews. They were successful in the tanking part, and landed on their future. They’ve also been building up some pieces to surround Matthews.
The Penguins, may be looking at the 2006 version of themselves on Saturday night. Toronto has a ton of work to fulfill what the Penguins have done, though. Crosby and the Penguins have nabbed Stanley Cups since 2006. They won a Cup in 2009, and then did it again this past year. So, they drafted Crosby in 2005, and won it all a few years later. That’s just about the blueprint the Leafs would like to follow with Matthews. The Leafs must retool their blueline before thinking about a Stanley Cup, which should come in time. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Maple Leafs pick for Saturday night in the NHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick
The Maple Leafs are coming off a shootout win over the Calgary Flames. Frederik Andersen stood on his head to give them the win, along with us a win on the Leafs. Andersen stopped 42 of 43 shots, including coming up big in the shootout. It was the fifth time this season that the Leafs have allowed an opponent to get more than 40 shots on net. Those five games all came within their last ten outings. The Leafs cannot expect Andersen to bail them out every night. We know the offence can put up goals, but there’s going to come a time they need their defence to play better hockey. On the season, they’ve allowed an average of 34 shots per game.
All of these shots they’re allowing to get through to Andersen could be dangerous against the Penguins. The Pens have hit the net an average of 35.2 times this year. They are going to pepper Andersen all night with shots. Pittsburgh have averaged 3.5 goals in their last ten games. In their last six, they’ve averaged 4.3 goals per game. I expect the Pens to do what the Flames couldn’t: take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Andersen has been one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL lately, but this poses an opportunity for some regression against the Penguins’ playmakers in Pittsburgh.
He has to be gassed with all of the action he’s seen of late. Look for the Penguins to be able to exploit that. I don’t think it bodes well against their hot offence. The Penguins are 24th with 3.23 goals allowed per game this season. That must be cleaned up in 2018. The OVER has 6-1-1 in their last eight games for good reason. Their offence is performing at a high-level, while the defence looks slow. It should be a good matchup in Pittsburgh. Another play on the total tonight, with a look at the OVER recommended. I haven’t seen this many 6’s across the league in years, but it’s been justified with the increase in goal scoring. The NHL has gotten their wish, and let’s hope our wish comes true on Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
PICK: OVER 6 (-110)