NHL Odds & Pick for Jets vs. Maple Leafs: Winnipeg Presents Value in North Division Clash (Thursday, March 11)
David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor Hellebuyck.
- The top two teams in the North Division face off on Thursday night in Toronto.
- While the Leafs have a bevvy of high-end talent and are lauded by those who follow the league, Winnipeg has started the season very well.
- Pete Truszkowski breaks down why he sees betting value on the Jets as underdogs.
Jets vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-180|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday night and via bet365.|
The two top teams in the NHL’s North Division will face off on Thursday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Winnipeg Jets.
The Leafs sit atop the division but have lost three straight games, including the last matchup between these teams on Tuesday.
Toronto is a prohibitive home favorite in this contest, but are they getting too much respect in the early part of this season?
The Winnipeg Jets enter this contest with a record of 16-8-1. They find themselves second in the North Division in terms of points percentage.
The story of the Jets is well-known. They spit in the face of the analytics. Their metrics look like that of a team trying to tank for a high draft pick. If you just looked at their statistical profile, you’d conclude that there’s no chance this team is competitive, let alone one of the best in its division.
Winnipeg ranks 26th in shot attempt share, 30th in expected goal rate and 31st in High-Danger Chance (HDC) percentage. Their main issues come defensively, where they rank 30th in expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5 and 31st in HDC allowed. Despite this, Winnipeg ranks 19th in goals against per hour at even strength and 13th in goals allowed per game.
Every year there’s a few teams that outperform their metrics, and it’s mostly for the same reasons; goaltending and high-end talent.
Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy last season as the league’s best goaltender. He hasn’t quite matched that level this season, but he’s still one of the better goalies in the league. His +0.6 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) mark is solid enough.
The Jets’ top six of Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele and Paul Stastny is among the best units in the league. The third line with Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton has also been tremendous.
Winnipeg is a deep and talented team that doesn’t need a lot of zone time to make opponents pay.
Toronto Maple Leafs
When betting on sports, it’s important to find the narratives and see whether they are warranted. After all, these narratives are what influences public opinion and therefore impact betting lines.
In the NHL, that narrative is controlled by the Canadian media and especially the media based out of Toronto.
The Maple Leafs are a very good hockey team with a lot of talent. However, if you listened to the media up north, you’d think they were an unstoppable force and that Auston Matthews is the greatest goal scorer of all-time.
The fact is that Toronto is a good team that’s currently taking advantage of playing a totally intra-divisional where the teams below them in the standings rank between extremely flawed and bad. The Maple Leafs rank 19th in shot-attempt share and ninth in both expected goal rate and high danger chance percentage.
While the analytics suggest the Leafs are more of a middling of the road, maybe slightly above average team, there’s no denying their talent. They have three franchise players up front in Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. William Nylander has also had a great year while Morgan Rielly is contributing from the back end.
A potential issue for the Leafs is in goal. It seems like since 2016 hockey media and fans have been trying to figure out if Frederik Andersen is good enough to be a franchise goaltender. He’s shown flashes, but the results have been disappointing. His -5.3 GSAx mark this season is underwhelming.
Jets vs. Maple Leafs Best Bet
It’s now almost three years that this current group of Toronto Maple Leafs has been together after the signing of Tavares in 2018. At this point, we know what the Leafs are. They are an extremely talented and fun team that will win games.
However, calling Toronto an elite team is a stretch when its quality of competition is low and underlying metrics don’t jump off the page.
It seems like the oddsmakers have their reservations about the Jets, which you can’t blame them for. There’s no logical explanation for how a team with an analytical profile this poor can be so successful. Despite this, the Jets are defying the odds and continuing to win games.
This line implies a game between an elite team and a poor team. I don’t think the Maple Leafs are elite and I don’t believe the Jets are a bad team. We have two fun but flawed teams here, just like almost every team in the North Division. Sure, the Leafs might be the better team but not to the level of this line.
I think Winnipeg has enough firepower to win any game they play. I also think the Jets have a significant goaltending advantage in this contest. The market and hockey media play a part in overrating the Leafs and I think that’s the case here. For those reasons, I’d play the Jets at +150 or better.
Pick: Jets +160 (+150 or better)