After a somewhat easy week and change, it’s time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to hit the gas pedal with some more significant opponents. The blue and white will play back-to-back this weekend, and have a very tough challenge in front of them as they host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night and look for at least one point in their sixth consecutive game.
Bet on Avalanche vs. Maple Leafs
The Avalanche are slight -115 favourites at bet365, although this game opened as a pick’em.
Avalanche vs. Maple Leafs odds
|Avalanche Moneyline Odds
|Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds
|Maple Leafs -1.5 (+210), Avalanche +1.5 (-260)
|6.5 goals (over -135, under +115)
|Jan. 12, 7:00 p.m. ET
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)
About the Avalanche (27-12-3 SU, 20-22 ATS, 23-17-2 o/u)
The second golden era of the Avalanche is very much continuing into 2023/24. While a first-round exit prevented them from defending as Stanley Cup champions much earlier than expected last year, the team looks poised to get back into the contending mix this time around.
Outside of two brief slumps, a 2-5 run across seven games in late October and early November, and a 1-3-2 slump in early December, Colorado’s season has involved a whole lot of winning. Since that second cold streak, the Avs are 11-3-1, including 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve beaten some quality opponents in that stretch too, including the likes of Vegas, Boston, and Dallas, though they’ve struggled to stop some of the hottest teams in the league, like Florida and Winnipeg, who both grabbed victories along their streaks.
In a lot of ways, the streakiness is similar to Toronto’s, as is the star-heavy build, though they have one thing the Leafs still strive for – postseason success. That doesn’t matter tonight, but it does explain why games like these feel like measuring sticks.
About the Maple Leafs (21-11-8 SU, 13-26 ATS, 21-17-1 o/u)
It was Groundhog Day for the Buds at Belmont on Thursday, as the Maple Leafs looked to avenge a 4-3 overtime loss against the New York Islanders a month prior, and skated off the ice with… a 4-3 overtime loss against the Islanders.
Unlike the previous version which saw the Leafs come back from a 3-1 deficit, this time it was their home opponents who bounced back, responding to a pair of Auston Matthews goals to open the second period with a tally from Alexander Romanov and a power-play marker from Bo Horvat.
Horvat was the hero in the last rendition of this semi-rivalry, but this time Mathew Barzal delivered in an extra frame that felt too long and too short all at once. While it only took 21 seconds on the scoresheet for Barzal to seal the deal, a bad pass by Jake McCabe broke it up into two shifts with an icing, and McCabe was also the one to lose Barzal in front of the net. While the blueliner has been solid enough for the Leafs this season, it’s needless to say that was not the best couple of shifts of his career. Nevertheless, Toronto got a point for a fifth consecutive night and hopes are still high coming into this one.
Toronto’s last game against the Avs was last March, and while it ended in defeat, it capped off a pretty good season series, as the first game was a resounding win and this one ended in a shootout. Scoring came early and not particularly often, as Morgan Rielly opened things up a little under four minutes into the first period, Mikko Rantanen responded with his 44th goal of the season about 10 minutes later, and…. that was it. Until the shootout, no one else scored again. The two teams combined for 47 shots on goal, and the night ultimately ended up being more of a defensive battle.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Pontus Holmberg – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Noah Gregor – David Kampf – Bobby McMann
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren
Starting In Goal
8-3-1, 2.15 GAA, 0.928 SV%
Jonathan Drouin – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin – Ross Colton – Logan O’Connor
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Johansen – Joel Kiviranta
Kurtis MacDermid – Fredrik Olofsson – Jason Polin
Devon Toews – Cale Makar
Jack Johnson – Sameul Girard
Caleb Jones – Sam Malinski
Starting In Goal
23-9-2, 2.88 GAA, 0.897 SV%
You will be shocked to hear that the Leafs are expected to basically be the same as they were against the Islanders. Game-changing news, I know.
On Colorado’s end, I love the mix of their roster. You have mega-elite players (Makar, MacKinnon, Rantanen, Toews), a bunch of players who were once big-time hype guys (Drouin, Johansen, Johnson), a few very goods (Nichushkin, Girard), and then a lot of capital-G “Guys”. It’s a beautiful way to spread the roster around.
Auston Matthews to score a goal
The Maple Leafs are where they were the last time we checked in. No Ryan Reaves, no Joseph Woll, no changes.
Colorado has a decent chunk of talent out of the equation. Gabriel Landeskog remains in limbo after missing the past year and a half with a knee injury, though he did resume skating this week. Pavel Francouz’s season is over, following a groin injury suffered in the offseason. Artturi Lehkonen has been out with a neck injury since November, and is projected to draw in soon, though it doesn’t appear tonight is the night as of this moment. Bowen Byram suffered a lower-body injury last week and is on IR. Miles Wood has the flu and may or may not be an option today. Josh Manson missed some time with a lower-body injury earlier in the week and his status is also up in the air.
- In their past 10 games against each other, the Avalanche have the edge on the moneyline, going 6-4. Toronto has the edge on the puckline, going 5-4 with a push. The total goals over has been hit in seven of those 10 games. For whatever reason, the two teams have better luck in each other’s building in recent years, meaning Colorado presumably gets some juice by being in Toronto.
- The Leafs are typically very strong underdogs, including a 9-1 record on the puckline in their last 10. They tend to rise to the occasion of facing tougher opponents.
- The Avs are 8-2 in their last 10 and 4-1 in their last five, though they’re 5-5 and 2-3 on the puckline, respectively. While the first half of this stretch had a few more unders, four of their last five games have eclipsed the total goals over.
Player Prop Trends
- Nathan MacKinnon is thermonuclear right now, looking to remind people that while Cale Makar is better than great, that doesn’t necessarily make him the undisputed face of the franchise now. MacKinnon has eight goals, 11 assists, and 50 shots on goal in his last 10 games. Over the last 26 games, he’s gone pointless just once, picking up 47 (!) points on 116 shots on goal in that span. It’s a sight to behold.
- That doesn’t mean you can dismiss Makar either, though. He’s become the team’s best player in recent years, and while his numbers aren’t as gaudy as MacKinnon’s during this run, he’s still gunning for a 100+ point year on the blue line. He has 11 points and 38 shots on goal across his last 10 games. In between the two, Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantanen each have 13 points in their last 10, Nichushkin doing it with seven goals and six assists, and Rantanen doing it with six and seven.
- There are a couple of quality runs on the Toronto blue line that are somewhat flying under the radar right now. Morgan Rielly has 10 points in his last 10 games (1G 9A), and 16 points in his last 17. Timothy Liljegren has also been producing since returning from his high ankle sprain, putting up seven points in his last 10 games, with only one coming on the power play (compared to six of Rielly’s 10).
Wagers To Consider
- Auston Matthews is in “just keep riding with him” mode on the goals front right now. No. 34 has a whopping 17 goals in his last 15 games, including just three nights off and five two-goal games. His shooting percentage this year is above his career average at 19.6% (career: 16.0%), but it’s not by enough to diminish just how dominant he’s been as a finisher. You can get an anytime goal at -120.
- Similarly, it’s hard to ignore Nathan MacKinnon’s prop variety right now. You know he’ll be looking to elevate with a Hockey Night in Canada matchup in the centre of the universe, so short of an elite defensive performance from Toronto, you’ll likely see your share of him on the board tonight. His shot prop currently sits at 4.5 (over +100), you can get him to score an anytime goal at -110, and to clear 1.5 points at -140.
- A sneaky player to keep an eye on for Colorado is Jonathan Drouin. The Avs signed him in hopes that reuniting him with MacKinnon, his junior linemate in Halifax, would get his career back on track. His first 26 games (three goals, five assists) had people ready to give up on the dream, but he’s put up 14 points in 14 games over the past month. You can get him for an anytime goal at +275 or a point at -150.