I dished out a single free NHL pick last night and unfortunately my cold streak continued as I was dealt another L.
There are some picks that you have a ton of confidence in and should absolutely hit but the team in question comes out flatter than a pancake.
Indeed, the Buffalo Sabres – desperately in need of points for a playoff push – got one of the best home matchups possible against a Senators team that was 5-14-4 on the road this season with the 27th-ranked road offense and 29th-ranked road defense playing their second game in as many nights with a goaltender sporting a 3.67 GAA on the road this season.
So naturally, the Senators scored first and the Sabres chased the game from there on out. They managed get it tied at two entering the third, but three unanswered Senators goals gave the road side a huge 5-2 upset and embarrassed the hometown Sabres in the process.
I won’t dwell on that one any longer, but rather turn my attention to tonight’s six-game NHL schedule!
Season Record: 82-72-1
Now let’s take a look at a free NHL pick featuring the Maple Leafs vs. Stars from the American Airlines Center in Dallas!
Maple Leafs vs. Stars Betting Odds
- Maple Leafs (+101)
- Stars (-111)
- Maple Leafs +1.5 (-245)
- Stars -1.5 (+205)
- Over 6 (+102)
- Under 6 (-113)
Maple Leafs vs. Stars NHL Pick Breakdown
Now let’s take a look at each of these clubs before I get into my final pick!
Having dropped five of six entering the All-Star break, the Maple Leafs were in desperate need for a turnaround on Monday in Nashville and that’s just what happened in a 5-2 win.
It was the perfect start to a mini two-game trip that concludes in Dallas against a quality Stars home team.
The good news for the Maple Leafs is that they’ve been pretty good on the road this season where they’re three games above .500 at 14-11-0 and where they’ve dominated on offense.
After putting a five-spot on the Preds Monday, the Maple Leafs increased their league-leading road offense to 3.76 goals per game and scored at least four goals for this ninth straight road game.
They went 0 for 2 on the power play in Nashville, but still enter this one ranked fourth with a 26.2% mark on the power play away from home this season.
To be honest, the Maple Leafs’ offense has been lights out for more than two months right now, ever since Sheldon Keefe took over for Mike Babcock in late November.
The problem with this team has long been at the other end of the ice where the Maple Leafs rank 20th with 3.36 goals against per game on the road as well as the penalty kill that ranks 27th with a 73.5% mark.
Under Keefe, the penalty kill has improved a little bit as the Maple Leafs rank 13th with an 80.7% mark since he took over.
While the offense stayed hot in the win on Monday, the biggest takeaway for the Maple Leafs was how well they defended, but even more importantly the play of goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Andersen needed the break more than anyone on this team as he posted an .864 Sv% over a six-game stretch leading into it, capped by allowing six goals to the Blackhawks in the final game before the break.
Andersen – who played gold at Augusta National during the Maple Leafs’ bye week before participating in the All-Star festivities – admitted to feeling fresh upon his return, and it showed.
Andersen turned aside 34 of 36 Predators shots – good for a .944 Sv% – and continued his wonderful work on the road in the process.
Andersen is now 13-4-0 with a 2.49 GAA and .923 Sv% in 18 road outings on the season and is one of the NHL’s best goaltenders when his game is on point.
The Stars came out of the break with a 3-2 OT win over the surging Lightning to get their second half started on the right note.
They had dropped three of four before getting their bye week at the same time as Toronto, so they too got things turned around in a hurry while outshooting the high-octane Lightning by a 35-25 count.
This team’s blueprint is the complete opposite of their opponent’s, however.
Rather than getting things done on offense, the Stars get it done on defense as they’ll enter this one sporting the NHL’s second-ranked home defense with just 2.08 goals against per game while their home penalty kill checks in at eighth with an 85.1% mark.
That penalty kill snuffed out all four Lightning power play opportunities on Monday after allowing three goals on three power play opportunities for the Wild in a 7-0 loss in their final game prior to the break.
It’s a good thing they can defend with the best of em’ as their offense provides little room for error.
The Stars enter this one ranked 30th with just 2.60 goals per game at home this season and have still scored just three regulation goals over their last three games, two of which came on Monday.
For a team that seemingly has quality offensive weapons up front and offense from the blueline in John Klingberg and sophomore sensation Miro Heiskanen, the offensive output should be higher but continues to struggle like it has in recent years.
On top of the quality defensive structure, the Stars get some elite-level goaltending regardless of who is in goal, but tonight’s start will go to Ben Bishop who earned the win on Monday against Tampa.
It was a relief for the Stars to see their No.1 netminder back in form as he allowed five goals in a little over 93 minutes of action across his final two games before the break and was unable to stop the bleeding in the Stars’ 7-0 loss to the Wild, allowing three goals on just 15 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin.
Bishop is one of the best in the business and certainly one of the very best in the business at home.
He’ll enter this one sporting a 2.27 GAA and .927 Sv% on the season to go along with a pair of shutouts.
At home, however, he’s posted a 1.92 GAA and .937 Sv% to go along with one shutout. Despite those eye-popping numbers, Bishop is just 12-6-2 in that time. It’s a good record, but he’s still lost eight games in that time while allowing less than two goals a game.
That speaks to the Stars’ lack of offense, to be sure.
Something’s got to give tonight in Dallas.
Either the Maple Leafs’ white-hot offense will be stymied by the stout defense and goaltending of the Stars or that offense will break through and prove to be too much the NHL’s second-ranked home defense.
To be honest, these two teams couldn’t be any different.
When the Maple Leafs visited Dallas early last season, it was a track meet that resulted in a 7-4 Maple Leafs win. Later in the year, however, the Stars edged them in a 2-1 affair in the rematch in Toronto.
I liked the under in this one, but with the way the Maple Leafs offense has scored for more than two months, that’s an awfully dangerous pick even against this defense. They scored five on the Blues’ fourth-ranked home defense this season, for example. The bottom line is they’ve scored against all comers.
While Bishop is going to provide a stiff test, I truly need to see the Maple Leafs’ offense cooled off before I can take an under in their games, especially since they have holes on the back end.
Instead, I am going to see if that Maple Leafs’ offense, combined with the turnaround from Andersen in Nashville can lead them into a victory as the slightest of road underdogs tonight.
Andersen’s been brilliant on the road and if he indeed started a hot streak on Monday, this 30th-ranked Stars offense will be in trouble in this one.
The Maple Leafs are the more desperate team of the two as the Stars are comfortably inside the playoff picture in the west while the Maple Leafs sit just outside the playoffs in the east.
Add it all up and I’ll look to snatch some more value – as I did on Monday – with the Maple Leafs as a slight road underdog.