In an early season matchup that a lot of people have been looking forward to, the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Toronto for a meeting with the high-octane Maple Leafs. The Leafs have been flying to open the season with six wins in their first seven games of the season. They sit atop almost every power ranking you will find and it’s easy to see why if you’ve watched them play this season. The Maple Leafs can match any team offensively, and will throughout the season if John Tavares and Auston Matthews stay healthy.
The supporting cast has been good as well, especially Kasperi Kapanen who has been riding with the top-line in the absence of Willian Nylander. Kyle Dubas is currently flying over to Switzerland to talk to Nylander about his contract, so we’ll see where that goes. Neither party is budging in contract discussions at the moment.
If and when Nylander returns, it’s crazy to think that the offence will be better. Others are going to want to be paid when as well, so it could provide a tricky situation when that occurs. Especially if Kapanen continues at this pace, Dubas will be forced to manage the salary cap closely.
With all of that said, though, it’s no use focusing on then when the Leafs have the best chances they’ve had in decades of winning a Stanley Cup. I can surely see their defence letting them down in the postseason, but there aren’t going to be many teams who are going to be able to keep up with their speed for 3 periods. The LA Kings were their latest victim on Monday, a 4-1 win for the Leafs in what was a case of young vs old legs. The Penguins are tied with the Kings at an average of a 28-year-old roster, so we’ll see if they can keep pace. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
The Penguins have looked like old news on the ice to start the year. They’ve gone 2-1-1, with a crazy 7-6 overtime win against the Capitals and a 4-2 win over Vegas. However, if you’ve watched both of their last two games, it’s been an ugly display put on by the Pens. They were outplayed by the Canadiens and Canucks, two teams who they should have no business losing against back-to-back.
Both of them came in extra time, with a loss in a shootout against the Canadiens and in 4-on-4 hockey against the Canucks. They’ve already lost to the Canadiens twice this season. Offensively the Pens are going to be fine, but their defence is likely going to look lost tonight. Even with Justin Schultz in the lineup they’re below average. Now, subtract Schultz and the defence thins out some more.
Matt Murray could return to the net tonight in Toronto, but there have been no indications whether it’ll be him or Casey DeSmith. Murray hasn’t played in twelve days after suffering a concussion. When he was healthy, Murray wasn’t performing at an ideal level. He has a 5.47 GAA and 0.831 save percentage to make for a rough start for him in net.
Murray has allowed 11 goals through the first two games, which came against the Habs and Capitals. Despite the slow start, DeSmith is not the answer in net for the Pens for a full-year. So, they just have to hope this isn’t a sign of things to come for Murray. The Pens have allowed 3.8 goals per game, while the Maple Leafs have scored 4.71 goals per game. Not the best matchup for the Pens, but there is an opening there against a defence who have allowed 3.29 goals per game.
Frederik Andersen is questionable to start, which would give Garret Sparks another go between the pipes. Sparks was fine against the Kings, but he would get a bigger test against the Penguins. There should be ample opportunities for goals, which should result in more than 6 on the board. The OVER has gone 4-0 in their last four meetings, with an average of 7.5 goals scored. Thursday night should make for another.