It’s been a few days since I last wrote up some NHL picks, but that’s not to say the month of February has treated us poor, at all. In fact, it’s been a really good month so far.
My most recent pair of picks came way back on Saturday when I hit both the Vancouver Canucks (+119) and Montreal Canadiens (+120) as plus-money underdogs, giving us some units back in the process.
We’ll look to keep a nice month of February going with this Senators vs. Maple Leafs NHL pick in the third meeting in the last four nights from Toronto!
- Season Record: 15-18
- Units: -3.24
Senators vs. Maple Leafs Betting Odds
- Senators (+252)
- Maple Leafs (-285)
- Senators +1.5 (+108)
- Maple Leafs -1.5 (-128)
- Over 6.5 (-108)
- Under 6.5 (-102)
Senators vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick Breakdown
After an off-season overhaul of the club’s look-up front, general manager Pierre Dorion has yet to be rewarded for his efforts.
Entering tonight’s finale of a three-games-in-four-nights set with the Maple Leafs, the Senators rank 28th with just 2.28 goals per game on the season while their power play hasn’t done them any favors at just 11.9% for the season, good for 27th league-wide.
While they haven’t been able to generate much on the power play, it seems as if the Sens deserve a far better fate at even-strength than they have received so far. In fact, you might want to sit down for this.
At 5v5 this season, the Senators rank fifth in scoring chances for/60, fourth in high-danger chances for/60, and third in expected goals for/60, according to Natural Stat Trick. Additionally, their 1.99 goals/60 at 5v5 this season sits well under their 2.48 expected mark, so the truth is we should be anticipating plenty of positive regression from this Senators offense moving forward.
The power play needs to find another gear, but I bet you didn’t see that coming.
While their surface results overall aren’t great, they’ve been able to find plenty of twine against these Maple Leafs this season as they’ve scored at least five goals against them twice in four games and have averaged 3.50 goals per game for the season against their Ontario rivals.
With Brady Tkachuk on the top line, prized free agent Evgenii Dadonov on the second line, and high-end young talent in Tim Stuetzle and Drake Batherson on the third line, head coach D.J. Smith is certainly looking for a balanced attack amongst his new-look forward group.
It appears that it’s worked, but the results just aren’t there as of yet.
The Sens’ defense was always going to be a work in progress this season, and many of the traditional and advanced numbers agree that is indeed the case at this point.
The Sens find themselves in the league’s basement while averaging 3.93 goals against per game on the season while their 75% penalty kill — tied for 23rd — isn’t exactly holding up its end of the bargain, either.
The advanced data figures aren’t any good, either. At 5v5, the Sens rank 29th in scoring chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 while they sit 28th in high-danger chances against/60. That said, their 3.49 goals against/60 at 5v5 is well above their 2.59 mark and there are reasons for that (more on that in a minute), but given the personnel on the back end, it was tough to envision this group emerging from the league’s bottom-five this season.
Erik Brannstrom got into his fourth game of the season last night and looked quite good. He was patient and poised with the puck and acquitted himself very well on the team’s second power-play unit. Artem Zub not only scored a beauty breakaway goal in the Sens’ comeback on Monday night, but he too has impressed overall in his nine games.
Add in the minutes-eating machine they call Thomas Chabot and the team’s blueline already looks far more promising than it did to open the season a little more than a month ago. Veterans Nikita Zaitsev and Erik Gudbranson will continue to be place-holders while killing penalties and blocking shots, but if you’re looking for bright spots on an otherwise subpar back end, look no further than Brannstrom, Zub, and, of course, Chabot, one of the best young defensemen in the league.
A major reason why the Sens’ actual goals against number and expected number are so split comes down to goaltending as the Matt Murray/Marcus Hogberg duo has been the league’s worst so far this season.
At 5v5, the duo has combined for an NHL-worst .888 Sv% while their .787 mark on high-danger chances checks in at 23rd.
Murray has steadied his name as the team’s starter in recent outings and played well despite a tough-luck 2-1 loss last night, but still owns a 3.55 GAA and .886 Sv% over 12 starts and 13 appearances in his first tour of duty in Ottawa.
Hogberg has been horrible in Murray’s stead, however, turning in a 4.32 GAA and .860 Sv% in his six starts and nine appearances and was a lucky winner on Monday despite yielding five goals through the first two periods of that one.
In the second half of a back-to-back, you would assume it’s Hogberg going after Murray last night, but I’m not so sure as we await word on tonight’s starter netminders in this one.
After all, Murray has posted a 2.12 GAA and .929 Sv% in six February outings after a disastrous January in which he posted a 4.82 GAA and .849 Sv% in seven appearances.
Hogberg played well in a win at Winnipeg on Saturday, but regressed in a big way in Toronto on Monday and owns a 3.99 GAA and .868 Sv% in five February appearances.
We’ll see how it shakes out, but don’t be surprised to see Murray get the call again tonight given his work so far this month.
The offense wasn’t going to be an issue for the Maple Leafs on the heels of ranking third in that department last season.
They’ll enter this one sporting the league’s fourth-ranked offense with 3.53 goals per game on the season while their 32.7% clip on the power play ties them for second league wide.
That said, the Leafs have been held to two goals or less in two of their last three while their power play has gone quiet in going just 1 for 10 over their last five games. The advanced metrics have the Leafs ranked in the league’s top seven in all of scoring chances/60, high-danger chances for/60, and expected goals for/60 at 5v5, but their 2.82 goals/60 at 5v5 this season is well above their 2.38 expected mark, so we’ve seen some of that regression kick in of late, although they generate more scoring opportunities on their power play than any other team in the league, so don’t expect that group to stay quiet for much longer.
The main concern right now is the team’s second line featuring the John Tavares/William Nylander duo as Tavares is riding a six-game goalless drought into this one with Nylander one game worse at seven straight without a marker. Nylander remains an elite puck-possession player while that duo holds a major edge in expected goals for% when on the ice together, but Auston Matthews’ top line is nearly single-handedly carrying this team’s offense at the moment.
We’ll see if Matthews can get some more support underneath him in this one.
The Leafs’ much-maligned defense got a much-needed makeover in the offseason, most notably in the form of right-side additions in T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian while their middle-pair right-side defenseman Justin Holl has helped lead the team’s defensive renaissance in a big way.
The Maple Leafs rank ninth with just 2.65 goals against per game on the season, although their penalty kill continues to middle at 19th with a 79.3% mark.
That said, the advanced metrics spell regression. At 5v5, the Maple Leafs rank 23rd in both scoring chances against/60 and high-danger chances against/60 while they sit 22nd in expected goals against/60. Their 1.93 goals against/60 mark is well below their 2.30 expected mark, so it’s fair to say we should see at least some regression from this group moving forward.
While Bogosian has been a reliable bottom-pair defender for the club after signing a one-year deal in free agency, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston hinted this afternoon that he may take a breather tonight, having played all 17 games so far this season.
We’ll see how the personnel situation works itself out moving forward, but while the new-look Leafs’ blueline is a superior one to the versions we’ve seen in recent years, they are probably defending over their heads to some degree so far.
Goaltending could be the major focus for the Maple Leafs tonight as Frederik Andersen has made 11 consecutive starts with backup Jack Campbell’s lower-body ailment keeping him out week-to-week.
Andersen put forth a quality bounce-back effort last night in making 27 saves on 28 Senators shots, keeping his team in it early when the Sens dominated the puck possession in the opening frame.
However, with another monumental clash with the Montreal Canadiens on tap two nights from now on Saturday, this evening provides an opportunity to get the league’s wins leader a well-deserved rest in anticipation of that battle.
Therefore, all signs point towards third-string netminder Michael Hutchinson getting the nod tonight.
The Leafs are familiar with Hutchinson after he appeared in 15 games with them last season, but he was shelled for a 3.66 GAA and .886 Sv% in that time. He also played five games with the Leafs in the 2018-19 season, putting forth a far superior 2.64 GAA and .914 Sv% in that stretch.
The veteran also hasn’t seen any game action since suiting up for four playoff games in the Edmonton bubble for the Colorado Avalanche after the Leafs dealt him to Denver at the 2020 trade deadline. Hutchinson worked to an admirable 2.75 GAA and .910 Sv% for the Avs, but if he starts tonight, it will be his first game action since Sept. 4.
We’ll see if Hutchinson is indeed the starter sometime this afternoon in all likelihood.
Senators vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick
Tonight marks the fifth meeting of the season between the rival Sens and Maple Leafs, and three of the first four have been decided by one goal while the Senators’ 5-3 win in their season opener back on January 15th marks the largest spread of the season so far from a head-to-head standpoint.
Through two meetings this week, the Senators and Leafs are tied 7-7 on the scoreboard while Ottawa actually holds the possession edge and a decisive one over the last four regulation periods.
I simply can’t see Keefe not giving Andersen rest for this one. He’s once again been a workhorse and a rested Andersen against a quality Canadiens offense is far better than a drained one, of course.
So, while we don’t know who is getting the nod in goal for the Senators, my personal guess is there is a 95% chance Hutchinson starts for the Leafs in this one, and that puts some fear into me if I’m Toronto.
He hasn’t played a single hockey game in nearly six months and, of course, wasn’t very good when with the Leafs a season ago. As noted, Ottawa has generated plenty of scoring opportunities this season and are due for more goals while the Leafs have given more chances than their surface number would suggest.
At the end of the day, given how close every game has been between these two teams this season, grabbing the Senators +1.5 on the puck line at valuable +108 odds makes the most sense to me tonight.