Welcome back from the All-Star break!
The NHL resumes its regular season tonight following All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, and I will look to continue what has been a strong season with my free NHL picks.
There is always going to be peaks and valleys, some weeks will be better than others, but the bottom line is that it’s been an extremely profitable season to this point.
That said, there’s plenty of hockey down the stretch and I will continue to stick to the same research process – win or lose – moving forward as it’s been a successful journey to this point.
Now, let’s keep the good times rolling on this six-game NHL schedule!
Season Record: 82-70-1
Now let’s take a look at this free NHL pick featuring the Maple Leafs vs. Predators from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville!
Maple Leafs vs. Predators Betting Odds
- Maple Leafs (+100)
- Predators (-110)
- Maple Leafs +1.5 (-240)
- Predators -1.5 (+200)
- Over 6.5 (-113)
- Under 6.5 (+102)
Maple Leafs vs. Predators NHL Pick Breakdown
Now let’s take a look at each of these clubs before I get into my final pick!
The All-Star break came at a good time for the Maple Leafs who dropped five of their last six games leading up to the break after a run that saw them win nine of 10.
Not only did it come at a nice time in terms of wins and losses, but also on the injury front.
The Maple Leafs – who have struggled defensively of late – will get their most reliable defender back tonight in Jake Muzzin who has been out since December 27th with a broken foot. They will also get bottom-six forward Trevor Moore back as he has played in just one game since November 15th with shoulder and concussion issues.
Getting their best defensive defenseman back could help a Maple Leafs defense that allowed 5.00 goals per game over their last six games before the break.
The Maple Leafs now rank 22nd with 3.42 goals against per game on the road this season where the penalty kill has also been an issue at just 73.1%, good for 28th league wide.
Therefore, it’s a good thing their offense has been so, so good on the road this season.
In fact, the Maple Leafs’ 3.71 goals per game on the road this season is the best mark in the NHL while their 27.1% mark on the power play away from home is the fourth-best number in the league.
The Maple Leafs’ offense was cooled in scoring just two three goals over their last two games combined, although the power play remained white-hot as they went 4 for 10 over their last four games, obviously good for a 40% clip in that time.
The Maple Leafs haven’t exactly been getting dominated in their recent stretch of losing, however.
In fact, they tied or out-shot their opponent in five of their last six and were outshot just 34-33 in their one time being outshot in that span – their 6-2 loss to the Blackhawks in their final game before the break.
It continues a season-long trend of excellent possession numbers for the Leafs, especially on the road.
At 5v5 on the road this season, the Maple Leafs rank second with a 53% Corsi For%, first with a 52.98% Scoring Chances For% and fifth with a 51.07% High-Danger Chances For%.
For once, goaltending has been the biggest issue on this team of late as Frederik Andersen has struggled.
Andersen enters this one sporting a 2.89 GAA and .909 Sv% on the season, both well below career marks, and he has posted an ugly 4.12 GAA and .881 Sv% in January after scuffling to a 3.03 GAA and .904 Sv% in December, so he’s been off his game for a while now.
That said, Andersen’s best work has come on the road this season where he’s gone 12-4-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .921 Sv%.
For a guy who has played extremely well for the overwhelming majority of his career, I would expect positive regression in his overall numbers moving forward, but his road work has been fabulous this season.
The Predators have been riddled with inconsistency this season and sit six points 0ut of a playoff spot in the west as a result.
They won their final game before the break, but lost three of their previous five and are just 3-3-0 since replacing Peter Laviolette with John Hynes on January 6th.
The win over the Sabres heading into the break gave them their first home win in three tries since the switch, and the Predators are just 11-9-4 at Bridgestone Arena – a building that not long ago was a dreadful place for opponents.
The problems this season have uncharacteristically been on the back end and in goal for a Predators team that has been able to generate enough offense.
That said, their offense has been far superior on the road.
The Predators rank third with 3.52 goals per game on the road this season, but 20th with 3.08 goals per game at home where their power play ranks 28th with a 14.1% mark on the season.
Defensively, the Predators sit 26th with 3.17 goals against per game at home this season where they’re penalty kill is tied for 16th with an 80.3% mark.
Interestingly, they have struggled at both ends of the ice at home despite some seriously dominating possession numbers.
For starters, their +8.2 average shot differential at home is the best in the NHL, but that only begins to tell the story.
The advanced metrics are wildly favorable of their work at 5v5 at home as the Preds rank second with a 56.19% Corsi For%, seventh with a 55.25% Scoring Chances For% and fifth with a 57.22% High-Danger Chances For%.
Their biggest issue has been in goal where they rank 28th with a .904 Sv% at 5v5 on home ice this season.
The Predators haven’t named a starter for this one tonight and it could go to either Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros.
If it’s Rinne, he’ll come in off a 30-save win over the Sabres his last time out. That said, he’s struggled on the whole with a 2.95 GAA and .899 Sv% on the season and most of those struggles have come at home where he’s posted a 3.14 GAA and .887 Sv% in 17 outings.
If it’s Saros, he won’t inspire much more confidence in terms of his work at home. He owns similar overall numbers to Rinne with a 3.13 GAA and .895 Sv% on the season, but also a 2.82 GAA and .892 Sv% at home where he’s won just two of seven decisions.
Since we don’t know who will get the nod, Predators goaltending won’t factor in my decision on this game.
Both teams enter this one struggling a little bit of late, and both haven’t received much in terms of goaltending of late, either.
That said, while they have dropped five of six, I like the Maple Leafs entering this one.
For one, they get two regulars back into the lineup, most importantly on the back end where they’ve struggled the most lately.
I also don’t have nearly enough confidence in the Predators poor home defense and goaltending – regardless of who it is – to put a stop the Maple Leafs’ high-octane road offense and a deadly road power play.
Keep in mind that the Maple Leafs rank first – by far – with 3.96 goals per game as well as first with a 32.8% clip on the power play since Sheldon Keefe took over for Mike Babcock in late November – a span of 26 games.
The Predators – in a much-smaller sample – rank 22nd with 2.33 goals per game, 21st with a 17.6% power play and 25th with a 70.6% penalty kill since a coaching change of their own.
I just don’t see enough in the Predators to view them as the favorite despite the home-ice advantage.
As a result, give me the high-octane Maple Leafs to win this one as slight road dogs tonight.