New year, new Leafs? That’s the hope in Toronto, as the blue and white try to shake off a December losing skid with a fresh start in California. Yes, it’s time for their west-coast road trip, with late start times and unfamiliar opponents. Tonight, they’re kicking things off against a team that will likely be the toughest they face in the Los Angeles Kings.
Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Kings
The Maple Leafs are road underdogs on the moneyline at +115.
Maple Leafs vs. Kings odds
|Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds
|Kings Moneyline Odds
|Maple Leafs +1.5 (-210), Kings -1.5 (+175)
|6.5 goals (over -120, under -100)
|Jan. 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: Sportsnet Ontario
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)
About the Maple Leafs (17-10-7 SU, 10-24 ATS, 19-14-1 o/u)
The Maple Leafs dropped their fifth loss in six games on Saturday, keeping things close against the Carolina Hurricanes but ultimately not delivering. Funny enough, the game was a 2-0 Toronto shutout in 5-on-5 play, but a penalty to Matthew Knies put former Leafs winger Michael Bunting on the scoresheet two and a half minutes into the first, and Seth Jarvis added another power-play goal after Max Domi was penalized for a hold. Timothy Liljegren brought Toronto within one and Nick Robertson scored his fifth of the year with 10 seconds remaining, but before the latter goal, Sebastian Aho added an empty-netter.
The biggest story in Toronto, however, isn’t even the game or the losing skid. This weekend, the team placed Ilya Samsonov on waivers and assigned him to the AHL Marlies to get some time away and work on his game. The 26-year-old has struggled at a historic rate this year, falling from a .919 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average to .862 and 3.94, respectively, going from being just outside of getting Vezina votes to arguably being the worst goalie in the league this year. Toronto has called up 2022 fourth-round pick Dennis Hildeby to back up Martin Jones. Hildeby has had a strong rookie season with the Marlies, posting a .919 SV% and 2.20 GAA on a 7-5-3 record, but what interests fans is that he is instantly the NHL’s tallest goalie at six-foot-seven. Day 1 expectations should be tempered, but those who hope for a Woll/Hildeby duo long-term are no doubt curious to see how he performs.
About the Kings (20-8-5 SU, 17-10 ATS, 9-17-1 o/u)
If there’s a silver lining for the blue and white, it’s that the Kings are sputtering a little bit of late. When Toronto faced them last, they were 4-2-2 with points in six of seven, and early into the best season-starting road winning streak in league history. Tonight, Los Angeles has lost two in a row, and is a respectable, but not amazing, 4-4-1 in its last nine. A more optimistic viewpoint that the Kings would pitch is that they haven’t lost by multiple goals since Dec. 13, a seven-game run, so even when they don’t win, they’ve kept good teams like Seattle, Vegas, and Edmonton on their toes.
The Kings look on their way to true contention this year, after a couple of years of being on the cusp. The biggest key has been their defence, as the team’s 80 goals against are the fewest in the league. This is largely backed by their goaltending, who have put up a combined .915 save percentage despite being the lowest-paid group of goaltenders in the league.
Toronto’s last game against Los Angeles was a Halloween matchup at home, and the result was a pretty spooky loss. The Kings took immediate control of the game with goals from Andreas Englund and Philipp Danault and stayed in the driver’s seat throughout. John Tavares prevented a shutout with a power-play goal in the third period, but this was a dominant Los Angeles effort in the midst of their incredible early-season road winning streak.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|Los Angeles Kings
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Starting In Goal
4-3-0, 2.73 GAA, 0.915 SV%
Quinton Byfield – Anze Kopitar – Adrian Kempe
Kevin Fiala – Phillip Danault – Trevor Moore
Alex Laferriere – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Arthur Kaliyev
Carl Grundstrom – Blake Lizotte – Trevor Lewis
Mikey Anderson – Drew Doughty
Vladislav Gavrikov – Matt Roy
Andreas Englund – Jordan Spence
Starting In Goal
14-7-3, 2.10 GAA, 0.924 SV%
The Toronto lineup projects to be the same as the one that faced Carolina on Saturday. On the Kings’ end, they look by and large the same as they have throughout the year, combining great centre depth with a nice list of complementary wingers, a blue line that doesn’t have a ton of star power but finds a way to succeed, and an incredible bounce-back-year from Cam Talbot, who has put up elite numbers for pennies on the dollar.
John Tavares over 3.5 shots on goal
Maple Leafs enforcer Ryan Reaves appears to be closing in on full health, as he participated in full practice yesterday. He doesn’t project to be drawing in just yet, though.
The Kings are still without Viktor Arvidsson, who missed their last game against Toronto as well. He had back surgery at the start of the year and isn’t likely to return any time soon. Backup netminder Pheonix Copley is on LTIR as well, meaning brief former Leafs netminder David Rittich is backing up Talbot.
- The head-to-head between these two teams is split 5-5 over their past 10 games. This goes way back to Nov. 2, 2017, a 5-3 Kings win. In more recent history, the Kings are 3-2 in their past five against Toronto, which goes back to the beginning of the 2021/22 season.
- The Kings also have the edge on the head-to-head puckline (5-4-1 over 10, 3-2 over five). The goals over isn’t a frequent sight, being hit just once in the past five games and three times in the past 10.
- The Leafs aren’t underdogs often, but perform shockingly well at it. They’re 7-3 in their last 10 and 9-1 on the puckline – betting Toronto +1.5 would net you nearly 7.2 units if you bet equally on all of the last 10 times they were underdogs.
Player Prop Trends
- Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in scoring throughout the season, and also over the last 10 games, keeping a steady point-per-game clip. He has four goals and six assists in that stretch to go with his 34 points in 33 games on the year.
- Kopitar isn’t the outright leader in goals or assists for the team lead over the last 10, though – Adrian Kempe and Trevor Moore have also scored four goals, and Kevin Fiala has also put up six assists. The Kings are a team that spreads out their scoring and it shows right now.
- The usual suspects are dominating the recent stat sheet for Toronto (Matthews, Marner, Nylander) but Max Domi is quietly on a decent run, putting up eight points (2G+6A) in his last 10 games.
Wagers To Consider
- As mentioned above, Toronto tends to play up to underdog games, and when you combine that with the wounds from its last game against the Kings, this should be a good effort. Even if you don’t like the Leafs to win, the puckline at -210 is likely worth your attention.
- Quinton Byfield has been cold of late, going goalless in nine of his last 20 and putting up five points in that stretch. But he’s been great for much of the year and was one of the best players on the ice against Toronto in October, so I could see him popping tonight. He sits at +240 for an anytime goal, -115 to clear 0.5 points.
- John Tavares’ shot line sits at 3.5, a number he’s cleared in 10 of his last 11 games (51 SOG). I’d look into this one at +100, especially since Toronto will have to rely more on its second layer against a deep team like Los Angeles.