The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to get back on track Tuesday evening when they host the second-place WInnipeg Jets in what promises to be a fascinating three-game set for the future winner of the North division.
The Leafs looked great in Edmonton last week, but faltered going up against a pesky and improving Canucks’ side over the weekend. Toronto suffered their first set of back-to-back losses this season, and despite emerging as healthier over their past few contests, some issues with their defensive play and shot-generation have started to seep back into their game.
For Winnipeg, much of their allure over the past few weeks was wiped away over the weekend following a thorough thrashing by the Montreal Canadiens. The Jets lost by a 7-1 score-line to the Habs, a game that also seemed to exploit some of their defensive frailties. The Jets boast some elite offense, but still need to be better in their own zone in order to find long-term success.
It’s 1st-place vs. 2nd-place in the North division, and Tuesday night’s contest kicks off an important three-game set. This should be a tone-setting mini-series for the future of the division, and we’ll find out a lot about both teams by the weekend. It should be an exciting one, and for more insight, team news, and betting analysis – continue reading on beneath the posted odds for our prediction and analysis for this all-Canadian clash.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Betting Odds:
Winnipeg Jets (+170)
Toronto Maple Leafs (-190)
Over 6 (-110)
Under 6 (-110)
Winnipeg Jets +1.5 (-150)
Toronto Maple Leafs -1.5 (+130)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Winnipeg Jets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick:
It will be interesting to see how both of these clubs respond as the puck drops from the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night. Both the Jets and Leafs have endured solid first-halves of their respective seasons, but recent adversity, and improved runs from Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton, may have them looking over their shoulders.
But do not mistake this three-game set as one that isn’t important – as it very much is. It’s the top two teams in the North division, and will likely play a key role in determining the winner in early May. The Leafs enter seven points up on Winnipeg, though the Jets still boast two games in hand on Toronto.
For the Leafs, while their goal metrics continue to sag behind their likely unsustainable results – having Auston Matthews at less than 100% due to an ailing wrist, is clearly hurting their offensive output. The top-line was stymied in back-to-back games against a porous Vancouver squad, a bad omen for a looming Pierre-Luc Dubois. It was Dubois of course who went head-to-head with the Leafs’ sniper back in the playoffs, winning that matchup in Game 5 of the qualifying round.
For Winnipeg, this squad is starting to find their footing, and despite a tough blowout loss over the weekend vs. Montreal, the Jets’ top six remains one of the most elite units in hockey. Connor Hellebuyck is tough to beat in goal, and Winnipeg will be entering this three-game set looking to make a decisive statement.
Despite some poor underlying numbers earlier in the season, the Jets have shown legitimate signs of turning the corner. Losing Patrik Laine hasn’t hindered their offensive output, and though Pierre-Luc Dubois was forced to quarantine for two weeks after his trade from Columbus – Winnipeg managed to stay afloat. Now, the Jets are starting to mesh as a cohesive unit, with their big and talented offense controlling opposing defensive zones, and Hellebuyck making the saves when needed.
The Jets do match up better than most vs. Toronto, as Dubois and Scheifele match or even exceed in some areas Toronto’s top-two duo down the middle of Matthews and John Tavares. They have speedy and skilled wingers that will force Toronto to move the puck quickly from defense to offense – an area that’s given them trouble lately, specifically against Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck.
Expect high quality and high-intensity hockey over the next week, as both the Jets and Leafs battle for first. Toronto has been getting by on an unsustainably high shooting percentage, and it remains to be seen just how healthy Freddie Andersen is for the Leafs, as his play continues to be sub-par.
Backing the Leafs as sizeable favourites seems wrong given their looming regression and poor form of late. This is still a team with some obvious flaws, and ones in which Winnipeg can and should exploit with their talented crop of forwards and strength down the middle. As big road underdogs, back the Jets to take game one.