The Toronto Maple Leafs return home Thursday after a quick trip to New York, facing another Metropolitan Division opponent in the Columbus Blue Jackets. With a 5-0-2 record in their last seven games and two decisive victories since the previous weekend, things seem to finally be moving in the direction that fans of the blue and white are hoping for. They have an easier opponent Thursday, but as history has shown, it’s best for Toronto to not take anyone lightly.
Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
The Maple Leafs are heavy home favourites at -260, though that number has closed in slightly overnight at bet365.
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets odds
|Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds
|Blue Jackets Moneyline Odds
|Maple Leafs -1.5 (-105), Blue Jackets +1.5 (-115)
|6.5 goals (over -135, under +115)
|Dec. 14, 7:00 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: Sportsnet Ontario
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)
About the Maple Leafs (15-6-5 SU, 6-18 ATS, 14-11-1 o/u)
The second half of a back-to-back, on the road, against a contender, with one of your better young forwards out with illness and your third-string goaltender in net?
Yep, it’s time for an inexplicable Leafs win! The Maple Leafs finally get a game where excuses for a big loss are baked in for them, with zero expectation, and they responded by emptying the tank into the back of Igor Shesterkin’s net. Auston Matthews opened the scoring with his 20th of the season, Conor Timmins followed up with a knuckler a minute later, and while Blake Wheeler would get the Rangers back in the game shortly thereafter, Toronto would add two more before the end of the period.
The Rangers made one more push in the late second to make this a game, but Mitch Marner, Matthews, and David Kampf put the game out of reach once more. Despite scoring two goals, Matthews was held to just three shots – score one for those who took my advice on the shot under on Tuesday!
Toronto comes in fired up with its second multi-goal win in three games, after having just one in a month and a half. Hopefully, it’s a good sign for the Leafs moving forward.
About the Blue Jackets (9-16-5 SU, 18-12 ATS, 17-13 o/u)
The Blue Jackets aren’t a good team this year, and they aren’t pretending to be. They’re coming off a 2022/23 season that saw them land in the basement, they had all sorts of coaching drama to start the year with Mike Babcock taking over and then being dismissed before ever coaching a game, and Pascal Vincent benching players indiscriminately since.
Combine that with a few holes in the lineup as it were, and you never really know what sort of lineup you’re going to get against Columbus. You do know that their goal is to create a culture of accountability within the lineup, though, and some might argue that it’s starting to show up in the results. After snapping a run of just one win in 14 games across late October and early-mid November, the Blue Jackets have won five of 11 – not great, but a lot better. With that said, the trend is shifting downward again now, with four of the seven losses coming in their last five games.
In the Blue Jackets’ last game, they were handily defeated 5-2 by the Florida Panthers. You’ll know this as the game where Nick Cousins threw a dangerous hit on Erik Gudbranson, didn’t get ejected, and Gudbranson responded by jumping him a few minutes later. Needless to say, he’ll be out Thursday serving a suspension, thinning out their blue line just a little more.
The last game between these two teams wasn’t very long ago on the schedule, happening near the end of the regular season last year, but it’ll feel like forever once you look at the Toronto scoresheet. Zach Aston-Reese opened up the scoring for the Leafs, and after Jack Roslovic responded with an equalizer, Alex Kerfoot restored Toronto’s lead in the second period. Aston-Reese added an insurance tally, and Eric Robinson proved it necessary a few minutes later. It would end up being the game-winner, but not before Matthews added an empty-netter.
Toronto put 49 shots on goal toward Jet Graves in his first NHL game – he’s since played two more. Joseph Woll was in Toronto’s goal and got the win with 24 saves on 26 shots.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|Columbus Blue Jackets
Noah Gregor – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Nicholas Robertson – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
William Lagesson – Jake McCabe
Simon Benoit – Conor Timmins
Starting In Goal
5-1-4 3.29 GAA, 0.884 SV%
Johnny Gaudreau – Adam Fantilli – Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakhov – Dmitry Voronkov – Kirill Marchenko
Patrik Laine – Cole Sillinger – Kent Johnson
Alexandre Texier – Sean Kuraly – Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski – Nick Blankenburg
Ivan Provorov – David Jiricek
Jake Bean – Andrew Peeke
Starting In Goal
Spencer Martin (unconfirmed)
2-7-1, 3.57 GAA, 0.891 SV%
Toronto’s lineup is subject to some potential shakeup, depending on whether Matthew Knies is feeling better after being ill against the Rangers on Tuesday. He did participate in the morning skate, but as a 13th forward, so it’s tough to know for sure what happens here. We may also see Ryan Reaves draw back in.
Columbus, as mentioned before, will be dealing with Gudbranson serving a one-game suspension and a bunch of injuries we’ll talk about later. There are some nice pieces here, but the team is still very much a work in progress. Their third line seems particularly interesting to me – Sillinger and Johnson are both nice young players, and Laine, well, you hope he gets back to his peak at some point.
Adam Fantilli (CBJ) to score a goal
The Leafs are the same as they ever were, unless we’re including Knies’ flu – which again, we expect to be behind him.
For the Blue Jackets, a lot is going on. Damon Severson is out with an oblique injury suffered in November, Adam Boqvist just hit the IR with a shoulder strain, Roslovic is on the back end of a recovery from a fractured ankle, Boone Jenner recently fractured his jaw, and Elvis Merzlikins has also been out with an illness, though his seems to be lingering longer than Knies’.
- The Maple Leafs have carried the advantage in this matchup over the past few years, going 6-4 in their last 10 games against Columbus. That might feel low given the quality of these two teams, and you’re right – when one looks at the puckline, Columbus has taken seven of the last 10, leaving Leafs bettors out about 3.4 units if they took Toronto -1.5 in all of those games.
- Toronto has won four of its last five home games, and even sits 3-2 on the puckline across them! Things are improving, bit by bit.
- Columbus has won four of its last 10, including three consecutive losses on the road. The Jackets are 6-4 on the puckline in those last 10 and have hit the goals over in half of them.
Player prop trends
- Adam Fantilli is on a bit of a run right now, with three goals and two assists in his last five games. Those numbers lead the team. Over the last 10, Johnny Gaudreau and Yegor Chinakov are the team’s most productive players, with seven points each.
- Laine’s great start in the league feels like a distant memory now. He has two goals and two assists in his last 10, and just 16 shots. Those are fine numbers for the minutes he’s playing, but far from his days of early stardom in Winnipeg.
- Just like that, a couple of hot games and Matthews is back. He has eight goals and five assists in his last 10 games, including seven goals and two assists in his last five. He’s averaging well over four shots a game in this span as well.
Wagers to consider
- It’s third-overall pick Fantilli’s first game against the Leafs, and first game in Toronto. He’s a hometown boy and his hot streak lines up: +225 for an anytime goal, -190 over 1.5 shots, +125 for a point. You know there’s a good chance the stars align here.
- The “Big 3” same-game parlay for Thursday features assists for Matthews, Marner, and William Nylander, boosted from +275 to +300. This could be done in a couple of goals, especially if the power play is going.
- If you like the Blue Jackets to win instead, we can turn back the clock to the “Laine better” meme days and take a boosted parlay that sees him scoring in a Jackets win. That sits at +600, up from +525. Struggles be damned, the 2016 second-overall pick has always risen up to the matchup against Matthews and the Leafs, potting nine goals in 12 games, among his best per-game rates against any team.