NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Picks: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs (October 13)

NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Picks: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs (October 13) article feature image

Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Maple Leafs players Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews

  • The Maple Leafs host the Capitals for a Thursday-night game in Toronto.
  • Both teams are coming off ugly opening-night losses and are still searching for their first win of the season.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the matchup below and explains why he expects a high-scoring game.

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Odds

Capitals Odds+160
Leafs Odds-190
Over/Under6.5 (-120 / +100)
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Two clubs that suffered very disappointing opening night losses will meet Thursday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto when the Maple Leafs host the Capitals.

Washington allowed far more offensive chances than it would prefer versus Boston, but the team arguably still looked better than the Leafs, whose defensive play was lacking versus Montreal.

Both Sheldon Keefe and Peter Laviolette will be preaching sharper defensive play entering this contest, but will that ultimately result in a lower total on Thursday?

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Washington Capitals

Washington fought hard in what was somewhat of an all-over-the-place, disjointed effort in its home opener, but the team ultimately fell 5-2 to a shorthanded Bruins side.

Offensively, I felt the Caps could have fared better than one goal for, and its 2.76 expected goals for in the contest still seemed low to my eye.

The Capitals' top unit of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Connor Brown was somewhat poor in the contest, which could be taken as both a positive and a negative looking toward this matchup with the Leafs.

The positive outlook would be that the Capitals still generated lots of chances elsewhere, on a night when the powerplay was very sloppy and the big dogs were far from at their best.

Dylan Strome made a solid debut with his new club playing alongside Anthony Mantha on the second line, and continued strong play from the second line would be a massive boost to a Capitals team whose second unit struggled often last season, playing short Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

The negative outlook would be to say that perhaps Ovechkin finally takes substantial steps backward this season, as could other members of the Capitals aging core, such as John Carlson, who was also very poor Wednesday.

I'm not ready to go that far yet, however, and I believe that offensively the Capitals will continue to score at a high rate this season while posing a tough challenge for a Leafs team whose second pairing was simply a disaster on opening night.

Washington's defensive play was also poor Wednesday, however, leading to 3.14 expected goals for the Bruins and a tough day at the office for Darcy Kuemper in his Capitals debut.

Toronto's high-powered offensive core gave Washington fits last season; the Capitals lost all three meetings while allowing a combined total of 5.33 goals against per game.

Charlie Lindgren will start this game for Washington, and I believe he is likely to be an above-average backup option this season.

Lindgren played to a +4.5 goals saved above expected rating with St. Louis last season with a .958 save %, albeit through a sample of just five games, and at the AHL level, Lindgren was fantastic with a .925 save % and  2.25 GAA in 34 games played.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto's opening night loss will surely set off alarm bells – fair or not – as the Maple Leafs lost as -260 favorites to a supposedly rebuilding rival Montreal team.

The Maple Leafs allowed a plethora of sloppy breakdowns, and I actually felt Matt Murray's performance was fine altogether, though he finished with a poor stat line and four goals against.

Now, it was only opening night, and Toronto could have scored more themselves, including two clean post hits from Auston Matthews and Denis Malgin. But one thing, in particular, did stand out to me on the back end that could prove to be a concern for Thursday's contest and moving forward.

The Leafs' second defensive unit of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl was simply horrendous, and the miscues seemed to do with awful skating ability, specifically from Muzzin, more than anything else.

The eye test matched the analytics hand-in-hand with this case: At 5-on-5, Muzzin and Holl played to a shockingly poor 23.9% expected goals rate, and they offer an area the Capitals' talented offense can take advantage of.

At the other end of the ice, Toronto's usual stars looked true to form more or less, as well as the Leafs elite powerplay. And I have really no concerns at all that Toronto will score at a high rate all season long, which really is not much of a take as even the Leafs' greatest critics accept that.

The second leg of Toronto's goaltending experiment will get started Thursday. Ilya Samsonov will draw the start against his former team in the back-to-back situation.

Samsonov is an interesting player. His elite movement makes things look easy when true to form and always had me believing as a Capitals fan, yet his game has featured a tendency to allow soft goals at bad times. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan finally decided he could not wait any longer to see if Samsonov ever put it all together.

Samsonov allowed -12.1 GSAx with a .908 save % throughout 44 appearances in 2021-22, and he will obviously be very keen to get things started right this year.

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Pick

Contests between these two sides averaged 8.33 combined goals last season. I think it's in the nature of each team's specific roster compositions and playing styles to produce higher-scoring hockey.

Toronto's elite powerplay and stellar top two 5-on-5 units will be able to generate some offense in this spot – something I have seen far too consistently from this matchup in recent years. I expect three-plus Leafs goals on Thursday.

Yet, Toronto's defense was all over the place Wednesday, and while I believe things should still sharpen up moving forward, it's hard for me to imagine that will mean an overnight fix to some personnel problems that could be concerning this season.

And while both coaches would certainly love to see the sloppy puck management and defensive breakdowns cleaned up, that is not going to mean either intends to play in a defensive shell since that is simply not the makeup of either of these rosters.

Altogether, I believe there is a strong chance we see each side manage three-plus goals Thursday, and I like a play on the over 6.5 up to -130.

Pick: Over 6.5 -120 (Play to -130)

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