Like a lot of teams around the NHL, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will play in a back-to-back on Sunday after competing yesterday. There is a break ahead of them, as the NHL will be off until Thursday because of Christmas. Christmas is reserved for the NBA to take the spotlight, while the NHL will get more of the spotlight on New Year’s Day with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
The game will take place at Notre Dame Stadium to add to the allure of the annual showcase game in the NHL. It would be better if the Blackhawks were an alright team, but what went up has come down with them. The Bruins are on the way up and looked sharp again yesterday against the Predators. Meanwhile, the Red Wings fell to the Panthers at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, while the Leafs were 5-3 winners against the Rangers in Toronto. Jimmy Howard played a good game, allowing just 2 goals on 23 shots. The offence didn’t help out with only 1 goal against Luongo, though.
The Red Wings have been in a funk recently, but that’s going to happen with a team like the Wings. They aren’t expected to be a good team. However, even bad teams can go on stretches where they look like a competent club, while most weeks they are tripping over the blue line. It’s important to note that the Wings started playing horribly when veteran Mike Green went down with an injury. It doesn’t take much to disrupt a team with little depth. Take Green off the blue line and the foundation is rocked a bit. He is expected to be out for about a month. Head below to get our free Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
With both starters playing yesterday, the Red Wings and Leafs are likely to go to their backups in net for this one. You will probably find former Maple Leaf, Jonathan Bernier, and Garret Sparks manning the pipes in this one. Yes, it’s a considerable stepdown from their counterparts, though both have had their moments in the 2018-19 season. Sparks enters with a respectable 2.84 GAA and 0.913 save percentage.
The release of Curtis McElhinney was questioned by many. Considering how well McElhinney has been playing in Raleigh, it’s still looking like the wrong move. However, Sparks has done well enough and he has earned his role as the backup to Andersen. In fact, he’s recorded a shutout in two of his last three outings, with no goals allowed against the Bruins on the road, and none against the Flyers in Toronto. Conversely, Bernier has a 3.38 GAA and 0.898 save percentage.
Detroit are losers in five of their last six games. In five of their last six games, they’ve failed to score more than 2 goals. The absence of Green impacts more than just in their own end and he was surely missed last night against the Panthers.
He only has 16 points, though his contributions go beyond the stat sheet. So much so that he leads the team in +/- with a 10. I don’t think the Wings are going to be effective against a Leafs team who are on fire offensively. They have scored 18 goals in their previous three games for an average of 6 and tallied 4 or more goals in seven of their last ten outings. Don’t expect a pleasant experience for Bernier against his former team. The Maple Leafs head on Christmas break with their third straight win.