I dished out a trio of free NHL picks last night and to be honest I felt real good about all three. Unfortunately, only one came to fruition.
The lone winner of the night game out on the west coast where I had the Panthers as -128 road favorites to take down the hometown Ducks.
This one was fairly easy despite the Ducks opening the scoring after a Panthers goal was called back due to an offside challenge. Florida would tie the game before the end of the first and would end up scoring four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 win and a spot in the top three of the Atlantic Division.
However, we really needed that one due to the earlier results.
I had the Bruins at -130 to beat the short-handed Oilers in regulation, but it didn’t happen.
Boston won the game, but it took overtime as their one-goal lead established in the first couldn’t hold up as the Oilers tied it on the power play and Edmonton did a real fine job pushing this one to the extra frame and getting a point against the white-hot Bruins.
I also had a real good feeling about the Islanders as +141 road dogs in Colorado against a beat up Avs lineup, but this one wasn’t exactly close.
The Islanders’ offense was non-existent once again until less than three minutes left when they scored their lone goal of the game, but the Avs already had three of their own in that time and won this one by a 3-1 final.
The 1-2 night and 1.30-unit loss on the night ended a nice little hot stretch, but we’ll take it and move onto an eight-game Thursday night schedule!
Season Record: 99-85-1
Now let’s dive into this free NHL pick featuring the Penguins vs. Maple Leafs from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto!
Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Betting Odds
- Penguins (+101)
- Maple Leafs (-111)
- Penguins +1.5 (-255)
- Maple Leafs -1.5 (+215)
- Over 6.5 (-109)
- Under 6.5 (-101)
Penguins vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick Breakdown
Now let’s check in with each of these two clubs before I get into my final pick!
The Penguins just keep winning hockey games, including a 5-2 defeat of these Maple Leafs on Tuesday at home, and are now in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, a feat that seemed impossible just a few weeks back with the Capitals owning a commanding lead on the rest of the division.
Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams in the NHL in the season’s second half despite as rash of injuries as their experience and work ethic has really shown through.
At the offensive end of the ice, they’ve been as dangerous as ever. The Penguins rank ninth with 3.15 goals per game on the road this season while their power play hasn’t been quite as impressive with an 18.1% clip that’s tied for 17th on the road.
However, it’s been their work on the back end that’s improved the most after the run-and-gun style we witnessed from them at times in the past.
The Penguins enter this one tied for 11th with 3.00 goals per game on the road this season while their 82.4% mark on the penalty kill away from PPG Paints Arena sits in a tie for fourth in the league.
The Pens are also one of the very best possession teams on the road and overall this season.
At 5v5 on the road, the Penguins rank seventh with a 50.50% Corsi For%, fourth with a 51.41% Scoring Chances For% and third with a strong 51.55% High-Danger Chances For%.
They’ve also made good on those high-danger chances better than almost anyone in the league with a second-ranked 23.6% shooting percentage in those situations at 5v5 on the road this season.
Over the Pens’ last six games, they’ve alternated goaltender starts between Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry, so while it would appear to be Murray’s turn with Jarry earning the win on Tuesday, we don’t know quite yet with no announcement at this time.
If it is indeed Murray as I expect, he’s been the weaker of the two this season with a 2.76 GAA and .904 Sv% on the season in 31 outings. He also owns a poor 2.96 GAA and .886 Sv% on the road in 16 starts, but also a 2.23 GAA and .929 Sv% in four February outings.
If it’s Jarry again, he would carry a stout 2.13 GAA and .931 Sv% into this one across 27 starts and 29 appearances. Jarry owns a hearty 2.51 GAA and .921 Sv% in 12 road appearances on the season and an eye-popping 1.67 GAA and .953 Sv% in three February games.
It would appear either Penguins goaltender would be coming into this one stifling hot.
It’s gut-check time for a Maple Leafs club that has gone just 4-5-1 over their last six games and now sit outside of the playoff picture in the east, tied with the Panthers with 60 points for third spot in the Atlantic but having played one more game.
Their recent woes were widely obvious in Pittsburgh on Tuesday when they allowed the first five goals of the game before scoring a couple themselves to pose a brief threat of a comeback.
Of course, this is a team that can score but has all sorts of issues keeping the puck out of their own net.
At home, the Maple Leafs rank 10th with 3.37 goals per game on the season as they’re the third-best offense overall.
Their offense and power play has actually been better on the road, but they still sit eighth with a hefty 25% clip on the man advantage on home ice this season.
The other end of the ice is where it usually falls apart for the blue and white as they rank 24th with 3.13 goals against per game at home this season and 23rd with a 79.3% mark on the penalty kill at Scotiabank Arena on the year.
That penalty kill was picked apart with ease on Tuesday by the Pens as Pittsburgh went 3 for 3 on the power play in that one which was the main difference in the game with the Penguins going 4 for 4 on the penalty kill.
The Maple Leafs actually outshot the Penguins 36-24 in that one and held control of the puck for large amounts of time, something they’ve been good at this season.
They too are one of the best overall possession teams in the NHL, although their home numbers aren’t the best.
At 5v5 at home, the Maple Leafs rank ninth with a 53.14% Corsi For% and 10th with a 53.32% Scoring Chances For which is nice, but they slip to 20th with a 52.47% High-Danger Chances For%.
They also haven’t gotten much in terms of goaltending with a 22nd-ranked .914 Sv% at 5v5 at home this season, and they will go back to Frederik Andersen tonight who has struggled of late.
Andersen came out of the All-Star break hot with a .929 Sv% and two straight wins, but was injured in a game against the Panthers and has posted a god-awful .835 Sv% in three starts since, allowing five goals in each of his last two.
Andersen has also struggled at home this season where he’s posted a 3.16 GAA and .899 Sv% in 24 starts on the season, going just 10-6-6 in the process.
The Maple Leafs’ playoff hopes largely hinge on getting their defense in order, but also Andersen finding his game before it’s too late.
With just 22 games remaining in the season and having played at least one more game than the teams’ ahead of them in both the Wild Card spots and the third-place Panthers, the Leafs need to start racking up some wins.
It doesn’t get any easier with the Penguins in town tonight, a team that’s gone 15-10-2 on the road this season but also won that’s won three in a row and seven of their last 10.
Regardless of who starts tonight, the Penguins will have the goaltending advantage over a struggling Frederik Andersen, and they’re the better defensive club in these splits as well.
That said, while desperation by no means guarantees wins, I think the Maple Leafs bounce back in this one tonight.
After a bad first, the Maple Leafs actually played well for the final half of their loss on Tuesday, but special teams killed them. If they can indeed study the tape and learn something, they have a nice opportunity to bounce back here.
While the Penguins have been good at both ends of the ice on the road, their numbers do deteriorate in both areas compared to their marks at home and their 20-5-4 home record suggests that’s where they play their best hockey.
Despite the Penguins being one of the best teams in the NHL for the last couple months, I think the Maple Leafs will show up in this one and show much more life than they did just 48 hours prior.
As a result, give me the home side here as slight moneyline favorites.