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NHL Odds, Expert Pick & Prediction: Maple Leafs vs. Capitals (December 17)

NHL Odds, Expert Pick & Prediction: Maple Leafs vs. Capitals (December 17) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: John Tavares and Mitchell Marner

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs are road favorites against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
  • Both teams have been hot lately, but Toronto has some considerable edges to consider in the betting market.
  • Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a pick.

Maple Leafs vs. Capitals Odds

Maple Leafs Odds-146
Capitals Odds+122
Time7 p.m. ET
TVNHL Network
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

If this contest had occurred a couple days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Washington Capitals would be a game featuring two streaks colliding. Those runs ended Thursday though, with the Capitals seeing their five-game winning streak end against Dallas while Toronto's incredible run of 15 straight games without a regulation loss snapped at the hands of the Rangers.

Still, these are two hot teams. Toronto is clearly the superior squad in the standings at 19-6-6 compared to Washington's 15-13-4, but this could be a much closer contest than those records imply.

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Maple Leafs Have Been Golden

Toronto had a shaky 4-4-2 record, but that's well in the past. For a while now, the Maple Leafs have been playing like a Presidents Trophy candidate, and what's interesting is that it's not their high-priced offense that's leading the charge this season.

That's not to say Toronto's Big Four forwards haven't been doing their job. Mitch Marner's 23-game point streak only ended Thursday, Auston Matthews provided six goals and 14 points in eight contests from Nov. 26-Dec. 13, William Nylander has 17 markers and 33 points in 31 games this season and John Tavares has contributed 14 goals and 30 points in 31 contests. All of them are largely living up to the high expectations placed upon them.

The Maple Leafs don't have much offensive depth beyond them, though. Michael Bunting has seven goals and 22 points in 31 contests, and the next best forward after him is Alexander Kerfoot with four goals and 14 points.

The Maple Leafs rank 13th offensively with 3.26 goals per game, which isn't bad, but it's not great, and certainly not what you might assume given the performances of their top forwards.

Toronto hasn't needed a lot of offensive production to win games, though, because its goaltending has surprisingly been its greatest asset. Going into this season, it was known that the Maple Leafs would be fine offensively, and they even boasted an underrated defense, but their goaltending was a big question mark. However, while Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray have dealt with injury problems, they've vastly exceeded expectations when healthy.

Samsonov, who is expected to get the start, has been particularly effective, posting a 1.70 GAA and .939 save percentage in 11 contests. He was taken with the No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, so it was always known that he had this kind of potential, but the 25-year-old had struggled to live up to it before this season.

He had a 3.02 GAA and 896 save percentage in 44 contests with Washington last season, which led to the decision to not even present him with a qualifying offer, and opened the door to Toronto snatching him.

Can Capitals Stay Hot?

The silver lining in Washington giving up Samsonov is that Charlie Lindgren and Darcy Kuemper have been solid in net for the Capitals. Granted, Kuemper is currently dealing with an upper-body injury and might not be available Saturday, but that still leaves Washington with Lindgren, who has a 7-4-2 record, 2.76 GAA and .910 save percentage in 14 games. Lindgren has also been particularly effective lately, allowing two or fewer goals in six of his last seven contests.

The Capitals have the 12th-ranked defense with 2.88 goals allowed per game. That's not amazing, but it's perfectly acceptable. However, they are also tied for 21st place offensively with 2.97 goals per game, which is why Washington is hovering around .500 even after its five-game winning streak from Dec. 5-13.

Like Toronto, the issue isn't struggling star forwards. Washington certainly doesn't have anything to complain about when it comes to Alex Ovechkin. The 37-year-old has done his part by scoring 20 goals and 35 points in 32 contests this season. Evgeny Kuznetsov has underperformed somewhat, providing four goals and 23 points in 31 contests, but injuries are really what's hindered the Capitals.

Nicklas Backstrom (hip) and Tom Wilson (knee) still haven't played yet this season. If they were available, they'd both be key parts of the Capitals' top-six. Those two injuries have really held the Capitals' back this season, preventing them from fully capitalizing on Ovechkin's terrific start. Washington's forward depth is also weaker without Connor Brown (knee) or Carl Hagelin (hip) in the lineup.

It is worth noting though that the Capitals have recorded 21 goals in its last five games, so perhaps they can carry that momentum into Saturday's contest.

Maple Leafs vs. Capitals Pick

The odds unsurprisingly make Toronto the favorite here, but not by a ton. At the time of writing, BetMGM has the Maple Leafs at -130 on the moneyline, while FanDuel is better if you want to take Washington on the moneyline with their +122 offering.

Personally I think Toronto's potential payout on the moneyline is reasonable. I'm not confident enough in the Maple Leafs to suggest taking them on the puck line, but Toronto is the better team, and with Samsonov set to play against his former club, I like the Maple Leafs' chances enough to grab them on the moneyline.

Pick: Maple Leafs -145 or Better

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