The Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Toronto for what is always an intriguing matchup with the Maple Leafs. The Penguins and Maple Leafs are two of the more followed teams in the NHL, so it isn’t any surprise that they attract plenty of attention. The Pens have many accolades to back up their dominance over the last decade. On the other hand, we need to go back several decades to find the last time the Leafs hoisted the Stanley Cup. It’s been since 1967 and counting in Toronto. After they won four Stanley Cups in six years, it would have almost sounded ridiculous to imply it’d be nearly 2020 and they’re still looking for their 14th Cup. It’s 2018 and the Leafs are on the verge of doing just that. However, things haven’t been this promising in Toronto since Mats Sundin and Curtis Joseph were donning the Blue and White.
They of course failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final in that era, but they did come close a couple of times. There was at least a buzz around the city that something good might happen. Hope was there, and for many years, the Leafs had no hope. The acquisitions of Mike Babcock and Auston Matthews provided some new life to the franchise. Matthews will be out again tonight, though, as he nurses himself back from a shoulder injury.
They’ve had their ups and downs as a young club, but in general, the Leafs are trending up. It’s hard to be bullish on this team, other than the fact that this is still the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team who were more of a joke than anything before Babcock arrived. The Leafs are currently on a four-game skid, as their hot and cold season continues. Prior to the four games, they won four in a row. With a record of 39-22-7 and 85 points, it’d have to take a choke job to miss the playoffs. The Pens are a point ahead of the Capitals in the Metropolitan with 82 points, so they’re not completely out of the woods yet, either. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Penguins have been following a similar path as the Maple Leafs. There have been moments they’ve been hot, and other times not so much. They’ve been flip flopping lately, just like the Leafs, but in the opposite direction. The Penguins lost three games in a row, before winning three straight. Their latest win was a relatively easy one against the Flyers, 5-2. Malkin has gotten hot at the right time, as he has registered on the stat sheet in ten of the last eleven games. The blistering stretch has put him just 3 points behind Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in points.
Toronto may be on a four-game losing streak, but all of those losses came on the road. At the ACC in Toronto, the Leafs have won nine games in a row. Overall, they own a record of 22-8-2 at home. Before hitting the road, they beat the Panthers, Islanders, and Bruins. Pittsburgh has been surprisingly bad on the road, with a record of 14-17-1. Statistically both teams match up fairly evenly, as the Penguins are averaging 3.26 goals per game and allowing 2.99, while the Leafs are scoring an average of 3.19 goals per game and allowing 2.84 goals. This should be a good one, and at the end of day, I see the Leafs getting out of the funk and taking down the Penguins, who have been nothing impressive playing away from Pittsburgh. I certainly don’t feel they should be catching -115 in this spot.
PICK: MAPLE LEAFS (-105)