After a lengthy layoff we’re back at it Saturday night with a key clash in the Northeast division. As the season winds down, the games only increase in importance, and as a result, the betting lines get much sharper. Tonight’s featured selection involves the red-hot Ottawa Senators and the fading Toronto Maple Leafs. We enter the evening 34-20 on our featured selections, and fully expect to finish the regular season off on a strong note.
Toronto Maple Leafs (+100) @ Ottawa Senators (-120)
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that all that luck and good fortune is starting to catch up with a Toronto team that has overachieved much of the year. The Leafs are routinely out-shot, in fact, they’ve been outshot in their last nine straight games. Making matters worse, over their past three outings they’ve been out-chanced by a wide 47-27 margin. This team is playing its worst hockey of the year, and it is coming at a horrible time. Toronto has yet to clinch a playoff spot, and if they don’t pick up points soon, things could very interesting in Leafs Nation.
The Leafs have had success against the Sens this season, though with Ottawa staring to round into form again, tonight could prove problematic for the Buds.
Ottawa is starting to get healthy, and after doing such an admirable job of staying afloat when all of their injuries struck, optimism is running high in the Senators camp. Milan Michalek, and Jared Cowen are back, as is star goaltender Craig Anderson. Even Erik Karlsson is back skating with the club, great news for a playoff-bound Senators team. Ottawa has an opportunity to pass the Leafs tonight on home ice, and don’t expect them to let that opportunity slip through their fingers. They’re a gritty team and have the ability to make a Leafs defensive group, look silly. Toronto was shaky in their own end on Thursday night, and had great difficulty breaking the puck out from their own zone. The Sens are now deep on the attack and should be able to exploit these deficiencies of the Leafs.
Toronto needs to match the intensity of Ottawa, but you get the feeling there’s something else at play here. The Leafs look like a nervous bunch at the moment, with all players squeezing their sticks too tightly. That’s the result of missing the playoffs the last nine years, and the weight is on this group’s shoulders to finally end this lengthy drought. Expect those nervy feelings to continue Saturday night. The Senators are a pesky bunch at the moment with good vibes running through the team. They’re getting healthy at the appropriate time and should be giddy at the prospect of passing their arch-rival Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.
There are certainly growing concerns in Leafland, and whether the Leafs can alleviate them Saturday night remains to be seen. Ottawa is confident, healthy and ready to make Toronto’s playoff clinching game a little more difficult. It’ll be close, but the Sens represent excellent home value and that’s where the smart money should be come Saturday night.
PICK = Ottawa (-120)