NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Maple Leafs vs. Capitals (February 28)
Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Petr Mrazek and Auston Matthews.
- The Maple Leafs and Capitals meet on Monday for a game featuring two of the league's best scorers.
- Alex Ovechkin and Washington have lost five of eight and are +110 underdogs to Auston Matthews and Toronto.
- Our analyst breaks down the game and gives her top pick below.
Maple Leafs vs. Capitals Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-130|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Two of the NHL's most dazzling goal scorers will go head to head on Monday night in the nation's capital. Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are set to host Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena.
It's the first of three meetings this season between the Eastern Conference foes, and it comes at a time when both teams are struggling to play at their best.
Here's the lowdown on both squads and your best bet for Monday's matchup.
Can Leafs Scorers Make Up for Poor Goaltending?
The Maple Leafs are keeping pace with the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning near the top of the Atlantic Division standings. But lately, they've been on quite a ride.
Toronto recently snapped a three-game losing streak that included losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blues Jackets. Then, on Saturday, the Leafs were part of one of the NHL's biggest defensive debacles in decades — eventually skating away with a 10-7 win in Detroit.
It's safe to say that goaltending has been an issue. After a strong start to the season, Jack Campbell is now down to just 2.4 goals saved above expected and has allowed 14 goals in his last three outings. That includes five in 44:42 against the Red Wings on Saturday.
With backup Petr Mrazek now healthy, the Leafs have been trying to use a relatively balanced approach to their netminding. And while Mrazek did have a strong outing in Toronto's 3-1 win over Minnesota last week, he's still at -4.8 goals saved above expected, and his save percentage for the season is an uninspiring .894.
Leafs fans are also concerned about John Tavares. The 31-year-old has 48 points in 51 games and has been chipping in with assists. But the Toronto captain hasn't scored in 12 games — an uncharacteristically long drought for him.
On the positive side of the ledger, Auston Matthews has four goals and nine points in his last three games, and his 37 goals lead the entire NHL as of Sunday afternoon. Also, Mitch Marner logged four goals and two assists on Saturday, becoming the second NHL player this season to record a six-point game. He's up to 54 points, tracking for his biggest year since his 94-point campaign in 2018-19.
On the injury front, the Leafs are missing key defenseman Jake Muzzin, who's once again sidelined with a concussion. Defenseman Travis Dermott and forward Pierre Engvall have been out with non-COVID illnesses.
Capitals Remain in Funk
The Leafs may be going through a rough patch, but the Washington Capitals are in an outright funk. They've won just three of their last eight games and have been struggling to score, notching only one goal in losses last week to both the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
T.J. Oshie has returned to the Washington lineup after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury. He scored with the man advantage against Philadelphia on Saturday, perking up a chilly Capitals power play that has been better recently — 8-for-32 since Jan. 28, for a 25% success rate.
Goaltender Vitek Vanecek, who has missed a month of action due to an upper-body injury, is also close to returning. He was assigned to the AHL Hershey Bears on Sunday, for a chance to get some ice time. If he feels all right after the game, he's expected to re-join the Capitals on Monday — although Ilya Samsonov would remain the probable starter.
Samsonov has carried most of the load while Vanecek has been sidelined, with middling results. He's 4-4-0 in February, with a 3.04 goals-against average and a save percentage of .907.
Maple Leafs vs. Capitals Pick
A matchup between Auston Matthews' Maple Leafs and Alexander Ovechkin's Capitals should be a public relations dream, with two of the game's top scorers going head to head.
And while 32 goals are nothing to sneeze at, Ovechkin got off to a tremendous start with 19 goals in his first 23 games. He has just 13 goals in 29 games since Dec. 1 and has slipped to fourth place in the Rocket Richard race.
Matthews, meanwhile, has been the picture of consistency. He scored 20 goals in his first 27 games and has 17 goals in 22 games since Jan. 1. He's as reliable as they come if you're looking for a player to back on a goal-scoring prop.
With Toronto, Matthews also has more goal support around him. The Leafs are averaging 3.65 goals per game this season, fourth-best in the league, while the Capitals are at 3.17, tied for twelfth.
The Leafs opened at +105 for this game, which would have been great value. By Sunday afternoon, though, that number has shifted all the way to -130. Not nearly as appealing.
You'll get more bang for your buck if you assume that Toronto will once again generate scoring — at both ends of the ice. Unless there's a significant shift on the moneyline, the over holds better value for this matchup.
Pick: Over 6.0 (-120) | Play down to -135