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Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds, Picks, Prediction: NHL Betting Preview (Saturday, December 3)

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds, Picks, Prediction: NHL Betting Preview (Saturday, December 3) article feature image
Credit:

Claus Andersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs

  • The Lightning host the Leafs in a rematch from last year's postseason.
  • Tampa Bay eliminated Toronto last season, but what will happen this year, including tonight's matchup?
  • Nicholas Martin previews the game and shares his best bet below.

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Odds

Maple Leafs Odds +114
Lightning Odds -137
Over/Under 6 (-102 / -120)
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Two of the NHL’s best will meet Saturday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs for a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Tampa Bay ultimately bested the Leafs in Game 7 of that series en route to a third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The Lightning began the season with a steady 14-8-1 record and have so far acclimated to some meaningful roster turnover.

Toronto has been in strong form as well to start the season, and after a franchise-best November, the Maple Leafs enter this matchup three points behind Boston for tops in the Atlantic.

Will the Leafs extract a tiny measure of revenge Saturday?

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Goaltending a Bright Spot for Toronto Maple Leafs

The best thing Toronto could possibly do to avoid another embarrassing first-round exit in the postseason would be to continue pushing and uprooting the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic, assuming Tampa Bay comes in third again.

It was very clear by any statistic, metric or eye test that Toronto played an extremely strong series last year versus Tampa Bay, but ultimately when two elite hockey teams play at an extremely high level, variance becomes a massive factor.

So the motivation is very much there for the Maple Leafs to push hard this regular season and avoid a nightmare No. 2 vs. No. 3 Atlantic matchup again. However, to catch Boston, winning even the toughest matchups will be crucial.

Toronto has fought through a number of injuries on the back end to Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Jordie Benn and, most meaningfully, Morgan Rielly.

The shortage has been widely covered as is all things Maple Leafs, but when actually analyzed in depth, three of those players do not necessarily help the team considerably on a wins above replacement level.

Rasmus Sandin has stabilized after a poor start to the season, Timothy Liljegren has been stellar, and 39-year-old Mark Giordano has been superb. And altogether, the Leafs blue line has hung in quite well.

In the month of November, Toronto put up a strong xGF% of 51.98, and hung in with tremendous goaltending and what continues to be underrated team defensive play throughout its modest start to the season offensively.

Mitch Marner has been a significant part of the team’s success, and he enters this contest with the chance to set the franchise record of consecutive games with a point at 19 if the streak remains intact.

With his third period goal, Mitch Marner has now recorded a point in 18 consecutive games, tying Darryl Sittler (Jan. 26-Mar. 8, 1978) and Eddie Olczyk (Dec. 2, 1989-Jan. 8, 1990) for the longest point streak in @MapleLeafs history. https://t.co/0xm8KMCamg

— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 1, 2022

Toronto’s depth scorers have not entirely clicked to this point, but names such as Nicholas Robertson, Denis Malgin and Pontus Holmberg have shown strong signs, and they could be given a better chance to step up with Calle Jarnkrok sidelined.

Matt Murray has been confirmed in goal for the Leafs in this contest, and he has been stellar thus far with a +4.7 goals saved above expected rating and .927 save % throughout seven appearances this season.

It will be very interesting to see if Murray can continue to find success over a larger sample. Seven games is far from meaningful, and the totality of the last several seasons has not been ideal.

It is worth noting to observers entirely stunned by Murray’s success that he did post a +3.2 goals saved above expected rating with Ottawa last year  despite his lowly .906 save %, and that playing behind a significantly better defensive team does seem to be helping Murray find success with the more standard statistics.


Big Piece Returns for Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay’s start has mirrored the last handful of seasons since its first Cup victory in many ways, though this time the roster turnover has been as meaningful as ever.

The Lightning do not appear to be entirely engaged on a night-in and night-out basis but still own an elite record at 14-8-1. They are likely to receive a massive boost on Saturday night with Anthony Cirelli returning to the lineup.

Cirelli is an elite two-way star, and GM Julien Brisebois ultimately made what was a tough but strong decision to pay Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev long-term contracts this offseason.

That choice was tough in that it forced Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat out of town, both of whom had played key roles in the Cup victories.

The Lightning are now forced into skating big minutes to some less-established players. Some of those situations are working out well, including Nick Perbix, who is starting to shine. Others, such as Vlad Namestnikov? Not so much.

Nikita Kucherov has seemingly kind of flown under the radar with a ridiculous 35 points in the team’s first 22 games, and he leads the way for a Lightning powerplay that has clicked at a fourth-best 28.7% clip this season.

At 5-on-5, Tampa Bay’s recent play has also been steady, with a 51.38 xGF% throughout the month of November.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has not been his sharpest thus far, but he has still played to above-average results with a +3.6 GSAx rating and a .908 save % throughout 17 games played.  Vasilevskiy will likely be Tampa’s start for this matchup.

Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Pick

Toronto has been just a hair-sharper than the Lightning this season, and its better record and goal differential makes sense considering the overall process.

The Leafs very well may be the better of these two teams at this point in time, and even last season these teams were incredibly close; the overall goal differential in the playoff series went 24-23 Toronto, yet Tampa won the series, 4-3.

Regardless, my point is simply that Toronto is deserving of being more closely priced odds-wise in this contest. And that’s not to bash Tampa Bay, which has adjusted well to some meaningful roster turnover to start this season.

Tampa Bay has rightfully earned the reputation of being the significantly better side of these two with the back-to-back Cup wins, and the Lightning are obviously more accomplished. But by all factors that hold weight evaluating this specific contest, getting the Leafs at a price of +110 is excellent value.

This matchup is a pick’em all day in my book, and I see value backing the Leafs to win what should be a great contest down to a price of +100.

Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs +110 (Play to +100)

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