The Tampa Bay Lightning have clearly been the NHL’s best team thus far as they are running away with the Atlantic Division. Their main competition in the Atlantic likely will come from Toronto. The two square off at Air Canada Centre in a marquee matchup Tuesday, with the NHL odds favoring Tampa Bay.
Lightning at Maple Leafs NHL Odds & Betting Preview
GAME DAY! ⚡️ We’ll kick off 2018 tonight in Toronto. #TBLvsTOR
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 2, 2018
When: Tuesday, 7 PM ET
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Radio: 970 WFLA (Tampa Bay) / TSN 1050 (Toronto)
Opening NHL Odds: Lightning -129, Leafs +117 (6)
Why Bet on Tampa Bay?
Hard to believe the Lightning and Maple Leafs haven’t played yet this season.
Tampa Bay (28-8-2) is off a 5-0 victory in Columbus on New Year’s Eve. Nikita Kucherov scored his league-leading 25th goal of the year. He also added an assist in the win. The Lightning winger extended his point streak to 10 consecutive contests. He has six goals and 10 helpers during that span. Tyler Johnson netted a pair of goals. He wrapped up December with eight goals and 10 assists in 12 appearances. He picked up at least one point in every game he played, while missing one contest due to an illness. Johnson only had 11 points, including four goals, in his first 25 outings this season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy blocked all 21 shots he faced against Columbus for his league-leading fifth shutout of the season. Vasilevskiy also ranks first overall with 25 wins in 32 appearances this season. The 23-year-old Vezina Trophy candidate has a 2.02 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.
Tampa Bay outshot Columbus 20-6 in the second, including 15-1 in the first 10 minutes, making a good Blue Jackets team look really bad. The Lightning have done that to a lot of teams this season.
They have a league-leading 58 points and a 10-point cushion over the second-place teams in the Atlantic Division.
Kucherov (52-54—106 in 81 GP) led the NHL in both goals and points in 2017, edging Oilers captain Connor McDavid (30-72—102 in 83 GP) – the only other player to reach the 100-point plateau. McDavid’s 72 assists were the most by any player in the calendar year. Kucherov (1.31) and McDavid (1.23) were among 11 different players who averaged at least one point per game in 2017. Two others collected at least 1.20 P/GP: Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (1.29; 17-32—49 in 38 GP) and Bruins forward Brad Marchand (1.23; 44-42—86 in 70 GP).
Tampa’s Victor Hedman (13-55—68 in 79 GP) was one of four defensemen with at least 60 points in 2017, leading all blueliners in assists and points. San Jose’s Brent Burns (20-46—66 in 81 GP), the reigning Norris Trophy winner, paced all defensemen in goals.
Tampa Bay finished December 11-2-0 and collected 22 points, tied for the most wins recorded in a single month in franchise history (also: 11 wins in Jan. 2004) and tied for the second-most points recorded in a single month (most: 24 pts. in Jan. 2004). The Bolts continue to pace the NHL for wins (28), points (58), ROW (26), points percentage (.763) and goal differential (+51). The Bolts lead the NHL for goals (142) and goals per game (3.74) and rank second for goals allowed per game (2.42), the only NHL team in the top six in both categories.
Why Bet on Toronto?
Toronto (23-15-2) is beginning a six-game homestand sitting third in the Atlantic Division. They closed out 2017 winning twice on their most recent five-game road trip. The Leafs are off a 6-3 loss at Vegas on Sunday. Auston Matthews scored two goals and reached 100 points in his NHL career, and Patrick Marleau scored for Toronto. Matthews, the 2016 first overall draft pick, became the fastest Leaf to reach 100 career points since Nik Borschevsky, during the 1993-94 season.
Morgan Rielly recorded his 24th assist of the year in the loss. Rielly’s point shot resulted in a rebound goal for Matthews to give the Leafs defenseman 28 points in 40 games. The 23-year-old only had 27 points in 76 matches in 2016-17. Frederik Andersen surrendered five goals on 30 shots. His three-game win streak ended and his record sits at 20-11-1 on the year. Andersen also has a 2.71 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Tampa’s slick forwards will try to exploit the inconsistent Toronto back end, which clearly misses injured Nikita Zaitsev. The blueliner hasn’t played since Dec. 15 due to a lower-body injury. Coach Mike Babcock said after Sunday’s loss to Vegas that the earliest that Zaitsev could be back is after the team’s bye week in mid-January.
“Defense is a five-man unit, I’m not just blaming them, we were all guilty (vs. Vegas),” Coach Mike Babcock said. “(Nikita) Zaitsev isn’t back for a while and when he gets back he’s a good player, but the reality is whoever you play on a nightly basis has to be able to play.”
The Leafs also need more from Mitch Marner, who was so good last year as a rookie. Two of Marner’s 5 goals on the season were scored in the last 3 games of the calendar year. He only scored 3 goals in the first 37 games. Marner’s shooting percentage last year was just under 11%. He scored 19 goals on 176 shots. Fast forward to this season and that number gets slashed almost in half. Marner has scored 5 goals on 83 shots, good for a shooting percentage of 6%.
Latest NHL Odds Trends
- Tampa Bay is 10-5 ATS in its last 15 games
- Tampa Bay is 11-2 SU in its last 13 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Tampa Bay’s last 7 games on the road
- Toronto is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games
- Toronto is 3-6 SU in its last 9 games
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Toronto’s last 6 games
Expert Prediction & NHL Betting Pick
Hard to bet against the Lightning right now as they are clicking on all cylinders. They win by a goal.