NHL Hockey Betting: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs

NHL Hockey Betting:  Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs&h=235&w=320&zc=1

The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a good start in the 2016-2017 season looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third consecutive year. More appropriately, they’re looking to win the Stanley Cup and avoid the risk of becoming the ‘Buffalo Bills of Hockey’. The Bolts are 4-1-0 on the season but due to the torrid start of the Montreal Canadiens they’re three points off the pace in the Atlantic Division. Toronto is definitely a ‘work in progress’ but unlike the past couple of years there’s considerable hope and enthusiasm both on the team and among their fanbase. They’re definitely a feisty team even if that hasn’t translated into many wins so far. They’re 1-1-3 on the season meaning that they’ve only lost one game in regulation. Even their regulation loss at Minnesota was by a single goal.

You can’t fault the Maple Leafs’ effort thus far. They’ve played 4 of their five games on the road and have two OT losses, 1 shootout loss and 1 regulation loss by a single goal. The Leafs are young and brutally talented led by this year’s #1 draft pick Auston Matthews. Matthews played pro hockey in Switzerland last year which probably has a lot to do with why he looked so poised from the first time he skated onto the ice in a NHL game. He’s obviously not maintained his 4 goal a game pace that we saw in his NHL debut but he’s got 8 points in 5 games (5 goals and 3 assists), 22 shots and a +2. Not bad for a guy just two weeks into his NHL career. The Leafs’ problem is goaltending and 5 on 5 defense. They’re ranked #6 in goals per game (3.6), #5 on the power play (26.7) and a reasonable #12 on the kill (88.9%). Their liability is their #22 goals against (3.6 goals against per).

The goaltending assignment will be Frederik Andersen vs. Ben Bishop and Bishop hasn’t been great this year with a 2-1 record, 3.68 GAA and a 0.861 save percentage. Andersen’s numbers are actually slightly better (3.64, 0.879). Bishop is still the starting goalie and he’ll no doubt improve but it’s hard not to compare his YTD numbers with 22 year old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy who is 2-0-0 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .952 save percentage. Vasilevskiy is the starter of the future–Bishop is in the final year of his contract which pays him $5.95 million US and the Bolts won’t give him what he’ll be asking. That means he’ll be traded at some point either to a contender that needs a ‘rental’ goalie for the rest of the season or to a team with deeper pockets. If he continues to struggle he could see Vasilevskiy take his starting spot or even find himself on the way out of town sooner rather than later.

Tampa Bay won 4 of 5 from Toronto last season but the Leafs have been solid against the Bolts at home winning 3 of the last 5 meetings at the Air Canada Centre. Tampa has a much bigger game with Montreal on deck and the Leafs should be energized by only their second appearance at home this year.


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