NHL Hockey Betting: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

NHL Hockey Betting:  Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers&h=235&w=320&zc=1

They may not be there yet, but the future is looking very bright for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve finally got their top line center they’ve needed for years and he’s a good one–2016 first round draft pick Auston Matthews. Matthews might not have the ungodly skill set of last year’s top draft pick–a kid named ‘McDavid’–but he’s a very solid player. Matthews has benefited from a year in the top pro league in Switzerland and is much more of a ‘scrapper’ than McDavid. His nose for the puck, willingness to do whatever it takes to put the puck in the net and overall work ethic is exactly what the Maple Leafs needed.

The Maple Leafs are currently in sixth place in the Atlantic Division but in the midst of a tightly packed group separated by just a few points. Toronto has 35 points, one behind tonight’s opponent–the Florida Panthers–with 36 points. Tampa Bay has 37 and Boston has 40. The playoffs are a very realistic possibility for Toronto. Of particular note (and no doubt something that pleases head coach Mike Babcock) the Leafs are one of only three teams in the division with a positive differential. That’s a huge sign of progress.

Florida is a talented team but they’ve pretty much been ‘treading water’ this year after their impressive showing last season. The players are still there from defensive stalwart Aaron Ekblad to legitimate legend Jaromir Jagr who remains a joy to watch at age 44. It’s just a matter of putting things together. Just see a lot more upside at this point with the Maple Leafs who have better coaching and based on the ‘eye test’ a lot more excitement and enthusiasm surrounding their rapidly improving young team. They’re not quite a playoff level road team yet but are definitely not an ‘easy out’ at 5-6-5. A big problem has been their performance in shootouts–they’ve been in five and haven’t won one yet. With so many highly skilled players on their team this is just a matter of time. We love Roberto Luongo but Frederick Anderson has been just as good statistically. We’ll take the ‘plus money’ with the road team.


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