Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators – Canadian Tire Centre at 00:00
For my first Eastbridge NHL Handicap Betting preview I’ll be covering the Battle of Ontario between the Maple leafs and the Senators. Both sides didn’t qualify for the post-season with the Leafs propping up the league.
Both sides were extremely poor in keeping the puck out of the net last year and had the 3rd and 4th leakiest defences. So a goal-fest might be in order for this one!
Toronto are going through a rebuilding process and have a wealth of prospects in abundance. They also nabbed the No.1 overall pick of this year’s draft, Auston Matthews. The highly-rated Arizona native went through the unorthodox process of playing his final junior year in Switzerland. That year of playing senior level hockey, albeit not the greatest level has definitely developed his game. In the off-season he excelled for both the United States and Team North America in the World Champs and World Cup respectively.
The Kids Are Alright
Other than Matthews, as aforementioned, Toronto has many youngsters who are expected to make the jump into the NHL. The two outstanding prospects are Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Both were drafted in the first rounds of their respective drafts (’15 and ’14) and have dominated minor and junior level. Nylander made his debut for the Blue and White last season and scored a more than satisfactory 13 points in 22 games. He’ll most likely be playing on Toronto’s second or third line, with the same going for Marner.
Logan Brown and Thomas Chabot are the hottest prospects in Ottawa’s pool. Brown’s already been assigned to his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires for this season. The American has the making of a franchise centre with his hulking size of 6’6 and skill level that is so rare to find in today’s game. Chabot, who was drafted 18th overall last year is expected to feature for the Senators this year. With his smooth skating style and two-way upside, he’s definitely what they were lacking last year
Both teams are in the lower echelons of defensive stability. The leafs have re-acquired defenseman Roman Polak to give them more physicality at the back. I’m interested to see how Ottawa’s defence shapes up for this season. They had the most shots against last season with 2088 and will need to relieve the heavy load on goalies Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond, if they’re to have a realistic opportunity of reaching the play-offs. It goes without question that the weakest aspect of the Senators game is their defence.
As touched on briefly, other than the accomplished Erik Karlsson, the Sens do not have mobile puck-moving D’s and new head coach Guy Boucher may have to go into the trade market to see some improvement in that department. Nevertheless Boucher hasn’t wasted time in regimenting his defence by running drills in practice. He has been timing how long it takes them to clear the puck from the defensive zone. If they fail to do so in an adequate time, the players do push ups as a consequence.
Although there will be a lot of pride and passion at stake for this encounter I don’t think it will be a goal fest as I alluded to earlier. Toronto have upgraded on their goaltender with the shrewd acquisition of Frederik Andersen. He won the William M. Jennings trophy last year and will more than likely be facing more shots this year than he did in Anaheim.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Under 5 goals at 2.23
Prices correct at time of writing.
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