NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Pick & Prediction: Maple Leafs vs. Lightning (Tuesday, April 11)

NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Pick & Prediction: Maple Leafs vs. Lightning (Tuesday, April 11) article feature image

Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Auston Matthews.

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday in a preview of their upcoming NHL playoff series.
  • Don’t expect star players on either side to rest as both the Lightning and Leafs have reasons to win this game.
  • Continue reading for Ryan Dadoun’s Maple Leafs vs. Lightning preview and betting pick.

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds

Maple Leafs Odds+110
Lightning Odds-132
Over/Under6.5 (-110 / -110)
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Maple Leafs and Lightning will be playing each other with far higher stakes soon, but before their first-round series in the NHL playoffs begin, they have an opportunity to set the tone.

Which team will come out on top in this playoff preview? Continue reading to find out in my Maple Leafs vs. Lightning game analysis.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Entering Monday's action, the Leafs were tied for the seventh-best offense with 3.41 goals per game. Their strength has been stars Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares all providing at least 30 goals and 75 points this season. Michael Bunting has been a key part of the supporting cast with 23 goals and 49 points through 79 contests, while high-end offensive defenseman Morgan Rielly has four goals and 40 points in 62 outings. Nevertheless, Toronto's "Big Four" has played an indispensable part of the squad's success.

This begs the question: Will all four play on Tuesday? At the time of writing, all are healthy, but with the playoffs around the corner and Toronto playing on Monday, you'd think the Maple Leafs would want to rest at least one of them. They might not have that luxury though.

The Maple Leafs are in such a bad cap situation heading into the playoffs that with Matt Murray (head) unavailable, they haven't been able to call up Joseph Woll from the AHL to serve as the backup goaltender, instead relying on netminders signed to amateur tryout offers. Making matters worse, the Leafs have been deemed ineligible to use the Roster Emergency Exemption, because the league believes they created the "emergency" themselves, per TSN's Chris Johnston.

Ilya Samsonov, who started on Monday, might need to be in net again on Tuesday. The Leafs also don't have enough healthy forwards to rest anyone — as it is, they dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen on Monday out of necessity. Unless something changes, the Maple Leafs' best players have to face Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Lightning

While Toronto might send out its best simply because it has no choice, the Lightning might do so for morale reasons. Tampa Bay has lost three straight games (by a combined 19-8), but a win against its first-round opponent would allow them to put those recent struggles behind them.

Even though Tampa Bay's goaltending has been dreadful lately, it will likely have an edge between the pipes. While Samsonov might be pushed into starting on no rest, Andrei Vasilevskiy is projected to get his first start since Wednesday. The 28-year-old struggled in his last start, allowing six goals on 37 shots to the Rangers, but he's had a strong campaign overall, posting a 34-21-4 record, 2.63 GAA and .916 save percentage in 59 contests.

Mikhail Sergachev (personal) is also expected to play after missing Saturday's game. Not only is that great news for Tampa Bay given how effective he's been offensively this season (nine goals, 60 points), but because it also means Tampa Bay has nearly all hands on deck. The only player missing is middle-six forward Tanner Jeannot (lower body).

Tampa Bay is projected to dress five forwards with at least 25 goals and 60 points in Alex Killorn, Brandon Hagel, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. That core is the central reason why the Lightning rank ninth offensively with 3.40 goals per game, putting Tampa Bay just a hair behind Toronto in that regard.

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Pick

Toronto is being treated as mild underdogs by the oddsmakers, which is understandable given the Maple Leafs' awkward cap situation, the fact that this is the second half of a back-to-back for them, and the game being played in Tampa Bay. Even with all of that working against them, it's not a foregone conclusion that the Leafs will lose. They'll still be just as motivated to make a statement as the Lightning.

Instead of betting on either team, I'd rather take the under of 6.5. These are two high-powered offenses and Samsonov might be starting on no rest, but because this is a playoff preview, I think these two squads are going to focus on playing a tight, physical contest and both teams offenses might suffer as a result.

There's also the anticipated presence of Vasilevskiy, who should do well against fatigued Maple Leafs forwards.

Pick: Under 6.5 (-105 | Play to -120)

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