It’s an exciting night in downtown New York tonight, as the Toronto Maple Leafs travel to Madison Square Garden for a test against the Rangers. The Maple Leafs have been playing hot lately and are looking like a playoff team with their recent stint of success. The Leafs enter the Big Apple with a record of 18-13-3, putting their record on the line against the 28-13-0 Rangers on Friday night. The Rangers are 5-1 in their last six games, and the Leafs have gone 6-2-0 in their last eight. So, both teams are coming in playing considerably good hockey.
It’s pretty much expected that the Rangers are going to be playing well, but the Maple Leafs have been a bit of a surprise. The expectation that they’re going to be a good team was there, but many were expecting them to take some time to gel. They started out a tad slow, but once everything came together, the Leafs looked like a competent team willing to make a push at the playoffs. If you erase the opening month or two, the Leafs are certainly a playoff team.
The model team manage wants to build in Toronto, is a team who are going to be primed and ready to compete with the best in two or three years. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, along with Connor Brown are going to have some experience under their belt at that point. If things go according to plan, the Leafs will be playing deep into the playoffs then. The players want to speed the process up though, they think they can win now.
The goaltending in Toronto was shaky with Frederik Andersen in net, but he’s bounced back and things have been looking up on the goaltending front. Andersen holds the keys for the Leafs. He fails and the Leafs go down with him, he plays well and they’re going to be alright. His rebound in production coincides with the resurgence of the Leafs this season. Andersen and the Leafs’ defence will be in for a challenge tonight against the high-octane Rangers, who have been the best offence in the NHL through the first-half of the year. Let’s get to the pick on this Friday night in NYC.
While there is plenty of excitement surrounding the Leafs this season, I think more of the giddiness is around how good the team can potentially be in the future. For the Rangers, their future is now. Henrik Lundqvist has been so close to hoisting a Stanley Cup, but the Rangers are still searching for that illustrious championship in this era. The window is closing in on Henrik and Rangers. Win now, or else they’re going to be asking themselves a lot of what ifs after he retires. The offence has been playing better than normal, averaging 3.43 goals per game which is 1st in the NHL. The defence has slipped some, though, allowing 2.52 goals per game, which is off from their previous standing the past several years. Nevertheless, the offence has been hot, and they’ve notoriously gotten hot against the Maple Leafs. Note that 4 goals per game against the Leafs across their last five meetings.
The Leafs’ offense has been clicking as well, and continues to get better. On the season, they’ve averaged 3.05 goals per game. In their last ten games they’ve scored 3.60 goals per game. Conversely, though, the Rangers have also scored 3.60 goals in their last ten games. Furthermore, the Rangers have allowed 3.50 goals per game during that stretch, so yes, they could be looking at a much better record than 28-13-0. The defence has been soiling their potentially monster season. The OVER has gone 5-1 in their last six tilts against one another. Both offences are flying and on fire, I don’t see any reason for it to slow down at Madison Square Garden.
PICK: OVER 5.5 GOALS (-110)