Well, it’s been a tough start to the NHL season for my picks as I’ve lost each of my first three to start the year behind the 8-ball.
It’s a tough league to handicap as it’s chock-full of parity. Look no further than last night when the Anaheim Ducks league-worst offense from last season managed four goals on just 22 shots against one of the very best goaltenders on the planet in Connor Hellebuyck, upsetting the Jets with as 4-1 win in the process.
We got a late rally from the Canucks to send the game into overtime and eventually a shootout, but the Oilers prevailed in the shootout, dealing us another loss as we were looking pretty good with the Canucks as +161 road dogs in the extra frames.
I’ll look to get back on the right track with a Maple Leafs vs. Senators NHL Pick from Ottawa!
Maple Leafs vs. Senators Betting Odds
|Maple Leafs||-170||-1.5 (+140)||Over 6 (-120)|
|Senators||+153||+1.5 (-160)||Under 6 (+109)|
Maple Leafs vs. Senators NHL Pick Breakdown
It wasn’t a blazing start to the season, but an Auston Matthews-less Toronto offense scored just enough last night to grab two points in a 2-1 win over the rival Montreal Canadiens.
However, the end result is a little misleading as it seemed the Leaf had plenty of opportunities to score in that one, and the underlying data supports such a notion. As per Natural Stat Trick, the Maple Leafs posted a healthy 56.25% Corsi For% at 5v5, but they also posted a 3.51 expected goals for/60 at 5v5 as well despite scoring just once. They generated 18.76 high-danger opportunities/60 in that one as well, meaning they created a high-danger scoring chance about in about one of every three 5v5 minutes.
Pump fake and IN!
— NHL (@NHL) October 14, 2021
Even without Matthews, this is a very talented offensive group. The Leafs finished sixth in overall offense last season while averaging 3.32 goals per game despite an ice cold power play in the season’s second half that finished in then middle of the pack at an even 20%.
The underlying data was 5v5 was very strong as well. They ranked second in scoring chances for/60 and high-danger chances for/60 while ranking fourth in the league in expected goals for/60. Clearly, they’ve picked up right where the left off in terms of generating opportunities, but Jake Allen was very good in the Montreal crease.
Expect the Leafs to roll out the same lineup as they did in the season opener, and I would suggest they make good on more opportunities against an inferior Senators blue line tonight.
The Leafs much-maligned back end out-performed even the loftiest of expectations and got off to a nice start last night on the whole despite a suspect first 10 minutes to that game.
Last season, the club ranked seventh with 2.64 goals against per game, and that was in spite of a penalty kill that tied for 23rd at just 78.5%. Clearly, the club was quite good defensively at 5v5, and it shows in the underlying metrics as they ranked ninth in high-danger chances against/60 and eighth in expected goals against/60 in 5v5 play as well.
The addition of veteran T.J. Brodie last offseason was a major get as he has held down the No. 1 spot on the right side alongside Morgan Rielly on the top pair. The second pair of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl handle plenty of important minutes as well.
Add in Rasmus Sandin and Travis Dermott on the bottom pair and the Leafs held the Canadiens to just 8.76 high-danger chances/60 at 5v5 last night, resulting in a dominant 68.18% share of the high-danger chances in that matchup. A few early 2-on-1’s against had the back end looking rather sloppy out of the gate, but they really settled in from there on out.
I’m not sure we should be expecting much regression on a Leafs defense that is largely unchanged from a season ago.
The most notable change when it comes to this year’s Leafs is the absence of Frederik Andersen, the club’s former MVP, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes as a free agent. Interestingly, Hurricanes netminder Petr Mrazek signed with the Leafs this summer as well, forming a tandem with Jack Campbell who enjoyed a strong start to his season last night.
In the second half of the back-to-back it will be Mrazek making his Maple Leafs regular-season debut, and if he can carry over a strong 2020-21 season, followed by a strong 2021-22 pre-season, the Leafs will be in good hands between the pipes.
Mrazek broke his catching-hand thumb last season in Carolina, an injury that limited him to just 12 games. When healthy, however, he turned in a stout 2.06 GAA and .923 Sv% in that time while saving 4.5 goals above average, according to Hockey Reference. For comparison, that figure was slightly ahead of Robin Lehner, Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington among the notable netminders in that vicinity.
Mrazek enjoyed a quality pre-season as well, turning in a 0.56 GAA and .969 Sv% in three appearances, allowing just one goal in his 106:31 played in that time.
He’s certainly trending quite well entering this one tonight.
The news of the day for Ottawa is that they’ve found common ground with franchise pillar Brady Tkachuk on a seven-year contract extension, although he won’t be suiting up for this one tonight.
Another player who won’t be in the lineup tonight or in the near future is center Colin White who dislocated his shoulder in a pre-season game against these Leafs and underwent surgery that will keep him out for the next four-to-six months, or almost the entire regular season.
So, it looks like the Senators’ offense will start their season a little short-handed. It’s a group that exceeded expectations by tying for 19th with 2.77 goals per game alongside the Calgary Flames who they actually finished just four points behind in that All-Canadian North Division a season ago. They did so while scuffling to a 15.5% clip on the power play, good for 26th league wide.
They posted some strong 5v5 underlying numbers as well as they ranked 11th in scoring chances for/60, 12th in high-danger chances for/60 and 15th in expected goals for/60. Capitalizing on 20.13% of their high-danger chances booted that offense as that number sat seventh in the league.
It will be up to the young guns once again, players such as Drake Batherson, Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle in addition to Tkachuk when he returns, but veteran Connor Brown is coming off a career-year and top prospect Shane Pinto is with the big club from the outset after notching a healthy seven points in 12-game NHL debut a season ago after completing his season at the University of North Dakota.
The back end is where the club struggled severely last season between the defense corps and goaltending.
The blueline did not look promising entering the season, and not only did the Senators tie the Devils for 27th while allowing 3.38 goals per game, they also ranked 25th in scoring chances against/60, 23rd in high-danger chances against/60 and 24th in expected goals against/60 at 5v5. Add in some weak goaltending and a 79% penalty kill (T-20th) and you get your poor surface number.
There’s not a ton of turnover on this group as five of the six defenseman that will play tonight spent at least some time with the club last season. Thomas Chabot leads the way and both Nikita Zaitsev and Artem Zub were full-time Senators last season. Victor Mete will get his first full season in Ottawa after playing 14 games with them last season and Josh Brown played about half the team’s games, but recored just one point in the process.
Otherwise, veteran Nick Holden was brought in as a stabilizing presence, but it should be interesting to see how this group fares. It’s certainly not the best-looking group to start despite continued upside in Chabot, Zub and Mete, but they’re going to have to improve significant in preventing chances in front of some suspect goaltending again this season.
While Matt Murray’s 3.38 GAA and .893 Sv% from last season needs to be vastly improved, he’s out at the moment with a non-COVID illness, meaning backup Anton Forsberg gets the season-opening assignment for the home side.
He posted stronger numbers than Murray did last season — not a difficult feat — but still worked to a 3.21 GAA and .909 Sv% in eight games with the Senators after bouncing around the waiver wire. The journeyman has played in more than those eight games in a single season just once in parts of six NHL campaigns, a 35-game season in 2017-18 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
So, the sample is rather small in 56 NHL appearances, but Forsberg owns an uninspiring 3.22 GAA and .902 Sv% in that time between the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Hurricanes and Senators. He did post a +0.32 goals saved above average, placing him around Kevin Lankinen, Tristan Jarry and Darcy Kuemper among notable netminders.
Nonetheless, this why this Sens back end has to be very good. The goaltending is extremely questionable again this season, so preventing chances at a superior clip will be a requirement if the team is to surprise some folks this season.
- Maple Leafs are 4-0 in their last four vs. the Atlantic Division
- Maple Leafs are 4-1 in their last five games playing on 0 days rest
- Under is 5-1 in the Maple Leafs’ last six games overall
- Under is 6-2 in the Maple Leafs’ last eight road games
- Senators are 5-0 in their last five home games
- Senators are 4-1 in their last five games as an underdog
- Over is 4-0 in the Senators’ last four games overall
- Under is 11-3-1 in the Senators’ last 15 home games
Head to Head
- Home team is 5-1 in the last six meetings
- Senators are 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings
- Senators are 11-5 in the last 16 meetings in Ottawa
- Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings
- Over is 12-5 in the last 17 meetings in Ottawa
Maple Leafs vs. Senators NHL Pick
With a fresh goaltender waiting on a back-to-back to open the season for the Leafs, I’m not too worried about being fresh. The team should still have its legs for this one after a summer’s worth of rest.
That said, this young Senators team plays extremely hard and fast. Last season, the Sens also hosted the Maple Leafs for their opener and out-played them to a 5-3 victory in that one, winning at notable underdogs in the process.
For me, I’m looking at the total and I like an Over play here. The Maple Leafs ranked fifth with 3.25 goals per game on the road last season where their power play greatly out-performed their home power play at 24.1%, the fourth-best road power play in the league. The were also one of the league’s best road offenses the season prior.
As for the Sens, I think they can generate some offense tonight with plenty of young talent ready to go for this one, but I’m still worried about that blueline and Forsberg in goal.
We have the cushion of a puck built in with this 6-goal total, but with the way the Leafs generated chances last night I like them to help push this one Over.