NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Prediction: Kraken vs. Maple Leafs (January 5)
Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Maple Leafs players Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews
- The Toronto Maple Leafs are favored at home against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night.
- The Kraken defense is strong, but can they hold down the Leafs' Big Four on the road?
- Greg Liodice breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.
Kraken vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-220|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
After an astounding come-from-behind win against Edmonton, the Seattle Kraken head east to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Kraken have started 2023 off wonderfully by going 2-0 and look to continue their good fortune in “The Six.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs started the new year with a 6-5 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, but make no mistake about it – the Leafs are legit. In their last 10 games, they’ve gone 6-3-1, and before their loss, they won four out of their last five. Find a preview and betting prediction for Kraken vs. Maple Leafs below.
Will Grubauer Hold Down the Kraken Defense?
It’s been a wonderful year for Seattle’s top guys, and it’s looking more and more like Matty Beniers is going to be a star. The rookie is on his way to a potential Calder Trophy if he keeps playing the way he is.
Offseason acquisition Andre Burakovsky is having a great year, leading in team scoring, though he’s quieted down, going pointless in six games. Beyond them, Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann are always steady producers and are bound to put up numbers any time.
While last year was a travesty for the Kraken on the offensive end, they’ve really picked it up. Their even-strength attack has been exceptional, with a 51.8 xGF% (Expected Goals), but they are fairly average at generating High Danger Chances. The power play is about middle of the line, scoring at about 21%.
The Kraken’s defense is really holding strong. Since goaltending isn’t a strength, their defense has to pick up the slack. The Kraken allow only 2.49 xGA/60, though the penalty kill is among the worst at 68.4%.
Martin Jones has seemingly taken the reins as the top netminder in the Emerald City. However, he’s played their last three games, so perhaps it’s time for Philipp Grubauer to take the crease. Grubauer’s short tenure in Seattle has not been a great one, and this year he’s playing to a lowly -1.8 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) and an .881 SV%.
Maple Leafs Led by Their Big Four
When thinking about the Leafs, you can’t ignore their “Big Four.” Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares have all been incredible for the Leafs for the past few seasons, with the first three averaging over a point per game.
Nylander surprisingly leads the team in goals with 22, and Marner is a point-generating machine this season. You can never be too careful around this team, especially with Matthews lurking, coming off a 60-goal season last year.
The Leafs are among the best in even-strength attack. They place sixth in Expected Goals with an above average 54.16 xGF% and average close to 10 and a half High Danger Chances per game. The power play is also a big strength, as they score with the man advantage 25% of the time.
Defensively, coach Sheldon Keefe has these boys working hard. The Leafs only allow close to 2.4 xGA/60, while their penalty kill could be better at 77.6%. Needless to say, their defense is holding strong
Goaltending has been a pleasant surprise for Toronto as its netminders have split the starts this season. Both Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray are having resurgent seasons, each playing to above +5.5 GSAx. Samsonov has a .914 SV% while Murray holds a .920 SV%. I genuinely don’t know who starts here, since they both play the same amount of time, but I don’t think it matters here. You’re going to get a steady net presence regardless.
Kraken vs. Maple Leafs Pick
This matchup is interesting because it features two exceptional teams playing great hockey heading into the new year. Seattle’s been a dominant team on the road at 10-4-2, while Toronto is nearly unbeatable at home with a 13-2-4 record.
However, I do think Toronto takes this one tonight. While both teams are about as even as could be, the Leafs have two advantages on the Kraken – goaltending and special teams. If Grubauer plays, I don’t think this will be close, but the glaring hole is Seattle’s penalty kill vs. Toronto’s deadly power play.
While the Kraken don’t find themselves in the penalty box a whole lot, the penalty kill doesn’t bail them out at all. The Leafs will make anyone pay with the weapons they have on the frontline, but the Kraken’s poor ability to hold the fort will cause their demise tonight.
Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs 60-Minute Line (-138)