Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds, Prediction, Preview: Don’t Pass Up Tampa at Plus-Money
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-135|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL odds here.|
Tampa is in the midst of a five game road trip, one in which they have won every single game and have looked as dominant as ever. They also enter Thursday's matchup with an overall record of 16-5-4, just behind the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.
Toronto has also been playing tremendous hockey recently, winning six of their last eight games. The Leafs are 18-7-2 this season.
Even though both teams are dealing with some injuries, the market thinks this will be a tight matchup. Can Toronto defend their home ice and stop the Tampa Bay winning streak, or will we see the Lightning grab another win on the road?
Maple Leafs Offense Back on Track
After a slow start to the 2021-22 season, the Maple Leafs have finally rounded into form. Auston Matthews looks like an MVP candidate and leads the team with 28 points, and John Tavares and William Nylander are right behind him with 27 and 26 points, respectively.
That kind of talent at the top of the roster has propelled Toronto to the top of the league in many offensive metrics. They currently have the sixth most goals scored in 5-on-5 with 56, and rank inside the top three in Expected Goals For per 60 minutes (xGF/60) as well as High Danger Chances For per 60 minutes (HDCF/60).
However, a key piece of this unit is expected to miss this game. Mitch Marner is fifth on this team in total points with 21 (6 goals, 15 assists), but landed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury.
On defense, the Leafs have been solid, allowing just 1.95 goals per 60 minutes and 2.41 goals per game this season. However, they are surrendering 11.74 High Danger Chances per 60 minutes to their opponents, and that could become an issue against this Tampa Bay team, which will be discussed later on.
Luckily, it appears that Jack Campbell will be the starter in net and that is great news for Toronto. Campbell has been an awesome last line of defense this season, and at 5-on-5 he has a save percentage of .944 and leads the NHL in Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) with 13.1.
Lightning Regaining Dominant Form
The Tampa Lightning are one of the hottest teams in the NHL as they are riding a four game winning streak, and what they have done in the month of December so far has been quite impressive.
In December alone, Tampa Bay is outscoring their opponents 17-7 in what has been a perfect combination of offense and defense, and when you begin to look at their season as a whole it shouldn't be surprising at all to see them put together such a dominant stretch.
The Bolts are scoring an average of 3.28 goals per game this season and in 5-on-5 situations they have found the back of the net a total of 53 times, both of which are inside the top 10 in the NHL. This squad also finds themselves in the top 10 in goals for per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 with 2.65, further proving that they can dominate the ice at even strength.
They have clearly been great when it comes to scoring, but the Lightning have arguably been better on the defensive end of the ice this season.
As a team, the Bolts average just 2.11 Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes and are only surrendering 9.21 High-Danger Scoring chances per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations, ranking inside the top five in both categories.
Some of that success is because of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely be the starter in net on Thursday. Vasilevskiy has been one of the most dominant goalies this year in 5-on-5, coming into this matchup with a save percentage of .934 and 8.4 Goals Saved Above Expected, sixth most in the NHL.
Leafs vs. Lightning Pick
Both of these teams have won seven of their last 10 games and come into this game evenly matched.
As previously mentioned, Mitch Marner will not play, and Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are still going to be out for the Lightning.
However, Toronto is 1-1-1 since Marner got injured, and as a team they are being outscored 14-11 in that three game span. Meanwhile, the Bolts have played well recently despite some injuries to their key players and look as good as ever.
The last time these teams met, Toronto escaped with a 2-1 victory in a tight contest. It's likely that we see another tightly-contested, coin-flip divisional matchup on Thursday, and I don't think you can pass up Tampa at plus-money.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning ML (+115)