I don’t normally don’t do an NHL pick and writeup on New Year’s Day, but today is a special occasion in Toronto. I figured a few of you would be interested in a pick for this game, especially our Canadian readers, so here it goes between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The first of two outdoor games in the next two days, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs do battle in the elements at BMO Field. BMO Field is home of the professional MLS soccer team, Toronto FC.
For a day it’ll be home to the Maple Leafs, with the Red Wings playing the role of visitors. The current weather forecast calls for a high of 2 degrees Celsius and a little bit of wind, but otherwise, it’s looking like a fine day for hockey outdoors. These games always bring back good memories for me. Memories of playing in the backyard on the frozen rink or a pond in frigid air are always great to recall. If you’re a Canadian you know what I’m talking about.
This particular outdoor game is known as the Centennial Classic, not to be confused with the NHL Winter Classic. The Winter Classic takes place tomorrow in St. Louis, as the Blues welcome the Chicago Blackhawks. I’ll have a pick for that game as well, but I think there’s more excitement surrounding the Red Wings and Leafs. This isn’t exactly a matchup of elite teams. The Maple Leafs are striving to get there in two or three years, but the same can’t be said for the Red Wings. In fact, it’s pretty ugly right now in Detroit. The writing was on the wall for a few years now with the Wings, as their core was getting older.
Then they didn’t even get to have their best player finish out his career in Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk traded Detroit for Russia and is playing in the KHL this season to be closer to family. The Red Wings just need to blow it up and go into rebuilding mode. Conversely, on the other side, the Leafs look to have a promising future with the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner taking over in Toronto. It’s one of the best rivalries in hockey, and we’ll get a chance to see them play outside another time after they played at the Big House at the University of Michigan in 2014.
The Leafs get to call themselves the home team at BMO Field in Toronto. In Michigan, the Leafs won a close one in a shootout, 3-2. The Red Wings may see their streak of playoff appearances come to an end this season. The streak dates all the way back to the early 90’s, but there is no way I see this team getting to the playoffs. It’s certainly weird to see the Wings all the way back in 14th in the Eastern Conference. They are 2 points out of last place in the conference with a record of 16-16-4. They’ve won three games in their last nine attempts. Injures are no fun as well, with Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Mike Green, and Jimmy Howard all on the shelf.
The Maple Leafs have been performing well heading into this matchup. They are winners of four straight games, with wins coming over the Avalanche, Coyotes, Panthers, and Lightning. The last two are definitely wins to be happy about. The Leafs also have a win against the Penguins from December 17th. The defense has stepped up immensely of late. Note that in their last ten games they’ve allowed just 1.70 goals per game. Frederik Andersen has settled in nicely and is doing a fine job with the Leafs. Following a rough start to the year, he’s improved his GAA to 2.47, along with a save percentage of 0.925%. I expect the Leafs to make the most of the situation and kick the Red Wings while they’re down.
PICK: MAPLE LEAFS TO WIN -150