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Jets vs. Maple Leafs NHL Odds & Pick: Back Visiting Winnipeg in Low-Scoring Canadian Battle (Thursday, April 15)

Jets vs. Maple Leafs NHL Odds & Pick: Back Visiting Winnipeg in Low-Scoring Canadian Battle (Thursday, April 15) article feature image

Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Winnipeg Jets star Connor Hellebuyck.

  • The top teams in the North Division square off Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Winnipeg Jets.
  • The visitors have been led by standout goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who will have to be on his game against the powerful Maple Leafs.
  • Pete Truszkowski details below why he likes Winnipeg in a low-scoring affair.

Jets vs. Maple Leafs Odds

Jets Odds +152
Maple Leafs Odds -180
Over/Under 6.5
Time Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday morning via FanDuel.

The top teams in the NHL’s North Division face off Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Winnipeg Jets. These franchises will be meeting for the seventh time this season, with the Maple Leafs having won four of the first six contests. Two of those Toronto victories came in overtime. 

With the Maple Leafs rested and facing a Jets team playing for the second night in a row, is there enough reason to back the them as sizable home favorites? Or is Winnipeg worthy of a bet as a formidable underdog?

Let’s take a look at these teams and see what might be in store.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets enter this contest with a 26-14-3 record after their 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Most consider Winnipeg the most likely team to give Toronto an issue in the playoffs, but there might be reason to pump the brakes. 

Winnipeg currently ranks 31st in the league in terms of expected-goal rate. In particular, its defensive ability is putrid. Winnipeg ranks 30th in xG against per hour and last in terms of High Danger Chances allowed. 

However, if there was ever a team built to withstand spending a lot of time in its own zone and taking advantage of its opportunities, it’s Winnipeg.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

The Jets have a collection of high-end talent that can break a game. Even with captain Blake Wheeler on the mend, they can rely on the likes of Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers to change things. Their third line is among the NHL’s best as well in terms of chipping in offensively. 

If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the defensive zone, you’re going to need your goaltender to answer the call. 

With Laurent Brossoit getting the start Wednesday, we expect Connor Hellebuyck to be in the pipes against the Maple Leafs.

This is good news, as Hellebuyck ranks second in the league in terms of goals saved above expectation (GSAx) with a mark of +19.4. Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy, given annually to the league’s best goaltender, last season and he’s playing at that same elite level again this season.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs will not be judged on their performance in the regular season, but they’ve done what was expected of them. They lead the North Division with a record of 28-11-4, as they prepare for the playoffs in a year with heightened expectations. 

Toronto is considered by most to be a step above its competition in the division, which isn’t an unfair statement. The Maple Leafs currently has the fourth-best expected-goal rate in hockey. Their +28 goal differential at 5-on-5 is the second-best mark in the league. They also have the third-highest HDC percentage in the league. 

The Maple Leafs rank top five in xG/60 minutes. They also rank inside the top 10 when it comes to xGA this season. Both sides of the puck are pulling their weight, which has created a very dangerous squad. 

When looking at the Maple Leafs, their high-end talent is what sticks out. The team will be without Nick Foligno and William Nylander due to the COVID-19 protocols, but the trio of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner is still among the league’s most dangerous. All three standouts can wreck a game at any minute. 

Frederik Andersen started the season as the clear-cut No. 1 goaltender in Toronto. However, his poor play combined with an injury has opened the door for Jack Campbell. With Campbell’s performance, Andersen’s days as the club’s starting netminder might be over.

Campbell has won 11 of his 12 games ,while stopping 93% of the shots he’s faced. His +8.8 GSAx is the fifth-best amongst all goaltenders.

Betting Analysis & Picks

Analytically, this is a matchup where the Maple Leafs should roll. However, over the past few seasons, the Jets have defied analytics and proven they don’t care about what numbers say. Winnipeg has the talent and goaltending to make factors like possession and shot generation less important. 

Both of the goaltenders have had tremendous seasons. Yet, based on career history and track record, I’d bet on Hellebuyck as the far more likely goalie to sustain their success moving forward. Campbell has posted some decent career numbers, but mostly in a back-up role while Hellebuyck is considered one of the league’s best. 

With both performing well and games tightening up as we head to the playoffs, I do think there’s value in the under here, especially with the total set at 6.5 goals. With that total, it’s implied it’ll take four goals to win this game and I’m not sure I believe that will happen. 

At the same time, I think there’s value on Winnipeg as well. The Maple Leafs are very good, but the Jets have just as much high-end talent as Toronto does. It doesn’t help the Jets are playing the second half of a back-to-back set, but I still think they win this game more than 40% of the time like the line implies. 

Picks: Winnipeg ML (+148) | Total Under 6.5 Goals

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