After yet another big victory last night here at The Sports Geek with the St. Louis Blues, we’ll look for another winner Saturday night as the Battle of Ontario gets underway from the ACC in Toronto. Entering the evening, we’re an impressive 14-5 with our featured selections, and let’s hope that continues for the remainder of the season.
Ottawa Senators (+115) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (-135)
The first installment of the always intense Battle of Ontario gets underway Saturday evening as two banged-up teams will square off in Toronto. Both teams have likely exceeded expectations thus far in 2013, but you have to wonder how long that can continue when you consider all the injuries both teams have had to endure. For the Leafs, they’ve lost Carl Gunnarsson, Joffrey Lupul, James Reimer, and Matt Frattin all to injury. Those are four very key contributors to their line-up and without them on Thursday evening, the Buds seemed lost against the Hurricanes. It will be up to Ben Scrivens to step up in the absence of number-1 goalie James Reimer, and Scrivens seems ready for the challenge.
Those injuries however pale in comparison to their Ontario rival Ottawa Senators. The Sens were primed for yet another playoff appearance this season, but devastating injuries to defending Norris-trophy winner Erik Karlsson and star centre Jason Spezza have left the Sens banged-up and reeling. Their offense has been stagnant since Spezza went down, and now with Karlsson out injured, it’s only going to get tougher. Also absent for the Sens will be Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Regin, and first-line sniper Milan Michalek. Ottawa’s depth and resiliency will get tested tonight.
The Leafs have been impressive despite their latest hiccup Thursday night. Their speed and tenacity on the puck has been overwhelming for the opposition, and their much tighter defensive system has proved problematic to break down. Nazem Kadri has been a revelation, and despite all the heat the first-line has taken, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Phil Kessel are capable of skating circles around this depleted Senators’ defense. Expect the Buds to control the play and get the majority of scoring chances. Toronto knows this is a winnable game, and with the play-offs on their mind, they’ll need to pounce on a depleted rival. The Sens will have no answers on the attack with their two most creative players out injured, and if Craig Anderson can’t stand on his head, this game could get out of hand quickly. Take the Leafs at home at a very generous price.
PICK = Toronto (-135)
Though it’s not a typically busy Saturday night slate in the NHL, there are some other games that have caught my attention in terms of value. We’ve done well with these bonus selections thus far in 2013, so consider adding them to your card for the evening.
Bonus Pick #1: Philadelphia (+130) This is a line that should be much closer to a pick’em than listing the Flyers as sizable underdogs. Though they’re in a back-to-back situation, Philly is the stronger team here and will be able to catch the Habs off their game coming back after a long road-trip to Florida. Montreal is overachieving greatly right now, and their lack of scoring will catch up to them. Though they secured four points on their Florida swing, they did so in unimpressive fashion, and look for a hungry Flyers squad to get rolling with a big victory in La Belle Province. Take the Flyers as big dogs to get the job done.
Bonus Pick #2: New Jersey (-110) Again we’re seeing the betting market overreact to a team in a back-to-back scenario. The Devils have wildly impressed me this season, and going against a brutal Islanders squad should be easy for New Jersey. Johan Hedberg will be between the pipes for the Devils and is capable of playing well in relief. This is a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions, and expect New Jersey to keep their hot streak rolling in Long Island.