Thursday night will bring about a major clash in the North division, as the first-place Leafs will travel to Winnipeg to battle the second-place Jets.
It truly will be a battle for top spot, and could carry big playoff and home-ice implications, assuming the North division will play those games in their home rink.
Toronto currently sits at 61 points from 46 games, with Winnipeg entering Thursday’s clash just four points back, albeit with a game in hand. It’s been a stretch to forget for the Leafs, who have lost five straight, despite soundly outplaying opposition in most of those contests. They’re coming off of an embarrassing two-game set in Vancouver, where the Leafs lost both games to a Canucks team coming back from a month-long COVID hiatus. Toronto needs to find their game in Winnipeg.
For the Jets, they’ve continued their steady play, and enter this contest having not played since Saturday against Edmonton. This mini-break has been welcome news for the players, and it should also mark the return of team captain Blake Wheeler. The Jets soundly beat Toronto last Thursday, by a 5-2 score-line, taking advantage of some inconsistent goaltending. Fortunately for Winnipeg, Connor Hellebuyck has been consistently awesome in 2021, and he’ll again need to be sharp to catch Toronto in the standings.
With first-place very much on the line here, this promises to be an intense matchup between two probable playoff foes. Can the Leafs shake off their lengthy losing streak, or will the high-octane Jets’ attack add to their goaltending misery? This promises to be a fascinating encounter, and for more detailed analysis and a betting prediction, continue reading on beneath the posted odds.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Winnipeg Jets Betting Odds:
Toronto Maple Leafs (-130)
@ Winnipeg Jets (+110)
Over 6 (-110)
Under 6 (-110)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Winnipeg Jets Pick:
Despite many thinking the annual Maple Leafs’ collapse has struck early in 2021, don’t believe all the current negativity surrounding the Blue & White entering Thursday’s contest.
Yes, this group did just lose two tough contests to Vancouver, a team emerging from COVID hibernation after taking nearly a month away from the rink. But Toronto soundly dominated both contests, deserved much better results, and simply received two awful goaltending showings from Jack Campbell and David Rittich.
Thursday night it’s believed Jack Campbell will return between the pipes, and though he’s had a tough past week – all goalies go through slumps. Campbell has still been outstanding for Toronto so far this season, boasting a .930 SV%. He’s very likely the starting goalie for Toronto moving forward, supplanting Frederik Andersen – and a better showing should await against Winnipeg this evening.
The Leafs will also received a huge boost to their top-six by inserting deadline acquisition Nick Foligno alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on their top line. While the veteran Foligno may not provide too much offensive skill, his grit, physicality, and play away from the puck will help a Leafs’ squad that really needs those elements.
Toronto are mired in a bit of a slump, though this remains a dominating group. Over their past month of game action, the Leafs sit second in the entire NHL in 5v5 expected goals. They control play and own the puck for large stretches, which is why they have been such a tough team to defeat this year.
On the end of the spectrum, the Jets are playing well and getting good results – but the jury remains out on whether or not it is sustainable. This is a team getting by on some very elite goaltending right now from Connor Hellebuyck, and some great finishing on limited chances from their top-six forwards. This isn’t a deep team the Jets possess, and this is not a great defensive unit either. Winnipeg sit 24th in 5v5 xG percentage over their past 15 games, and though they’re keeping pace with Toronto – a deeper dive suggests these squads aren’t all that close.
Expect Toronto to place great importance on these upcoming Winnipeg games, and though first-place isn’t crucial in the North, the bragging rights and pride that go into a divisional win are surely something the Leafs value. They’ve thwarted off all competition for much of the season, and whenever an opponent has closed in, Toronto has flipped the switch. With added lineup enhancements and improved goaltending, the Leafs are short on Thursday evening.