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NHL Odds, Pick & Preview: Jets vs. Maple Leafs (March 31)

NHL Odds, Pick & Preview: Jets vs. Maple Leafs (March 31) article feature image
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Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Maple Leafs standout Mitch Marner.

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the Winnipeg Jets to Scotiabank Arena for Thursday's NHL matchup.
  • Mitch Marner and the Maple Leafs are heavy -260 favorites, which hasn't stopped analyst Nicholas Martin from backing the hosts.
  • Check out below where he's found betting value on the Atlantic Division powerhouse.

Jets vs. Maple Leafs Odds

Jets Odds +195
Maple Leafs Odds -260
Over/Under 6.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Winnipeg suffered some tough luck prior to Wednesday’s contest, losing top forward Kyle Connor and defender Nate Schmidt to COVID-19 health and safety protocols just before a must-win game in Buffalo.

The Jets still found a way to claim the crucial two points, though, led by a spectacular performance from goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, and now set its sights on another crucial win Thursday when it faces the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, the task will be tougher since the Maple Leafs have been in a strong run of play and hold a 24-7-2 record on home ice.

So, can Winnipeg grind out two more needed points at Scotiabank Arena?

Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg’s latest victory raised its playoff hopes to 7%, according to MoneyPuck, and could get that number up to 12.2% with another win.

However, claiming the victory might be unlikely, as the Jets have continued to allow a ton of chances against of late and appear a firm candidate for negative regression.

The Jets conceded a total of 4.28 expected goals Wednesday and the  performance looked in line with that mark to the eye. The poor showing raised it’s xGA per 60 minutes average over the last eight contests to 3.85, which goes as the third worst mark in the league during that span.

Altogether Winnipeg have played to a 44.34 xG rate over that sample, a lowly number that has appeared true to much of what I have seen from this group.

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On top of that already being a highly unimpressive number, seven of those eight contests have come against non-playoff bound opponents.

Connor will remain sidelined on a night when the Jets could certainly use their most dominant forward. Schmidt will also miss the game.

My expectation is we’ll see Winnipeg ride its workhorse Hellebuyck, with essentially zero room to spare with regards to dropped points. The goaltender has played to a +14.2 goals saved above expected rating, with a .911 save % throughout 56 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs

A Toronto side that has been prone to playing some notable letdown contests when things seem to be going well looks to avoid one after putting together back-to-back statement victories to start the week.

No one will look to closely toward anything Toronto does in the regular season, but a firm 5-2 home victory Sunday over the Florida Panthers was surely a good sign heading toward the postseason. The Maple Leafs then doubled down on it by besting the red-hot Boston Bruins in Tuesday’s 6-4 road win.

Over their last seven games, Toronto has played to a 57.46 xG rate, with five regulation wins that included victories over Carolina, Florida and Boston.

The poor goaltending received so often continues to hide that Toronto has at worst been reasonable on defense this season. Toronto has played to a 2.71 xGA/60-minutes mark over the last seven games, good for eighth-best overall. That sample is actually worse than the season long rate, which is third best.

Surely, there are some intricacies to goal prevention and being a difficult club to play against that won’t entirely show through with regard to xG data, but even putting a little stock into those numbers suggests Toronto is decent.

The back end is a little depleted heading in to this game, with Rasmus Sandin, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl sidelined.

However, Muzzin and Holl have been quite poor, so replacing those minutes with even below average players isn’t much of a net loss for Toronto.

That will be important moving forward, as it’s hard to imagine Erik Kallgren being the long-term solution to the Leafs goaltending woes, and he will start with both of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek currently out.

Kallgren holds a +0.2 goals saved above expected rating, with a .911 save % through six games this season.

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Jets vs. Maple Leafs Pick

I expect we will see Toronto generate far more high-quality chances and it should dictate much of the game with the deeper, more talented roster.

There’s certainly the possibility the Jets receive a far better goaltending performance from Hellebuyck. However, even considering that possibility I feel Toronto is taking this one by two goals or more enough of the time that backing the host on the Puck Line +135 holds value.

I will also be keeping my eyes out for Hellebuyck/Eric Comrie saves props, with eyes on playing the over here. Banking on Toronto to generate a lot of shots could be another safe way to back this the team and offer a little insurance should the host suffer some poor puck luck.

Pick: Toronto -1.5 (+135 | Play to +115)

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