Two of the three highest-scoring teams in the National Hockey League will share the ice tonight in Toronto when the Maple Leafs host the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay has paced the NHL with 266 goals, 20 more than the second-highest team in that department. The Leafs have potted 244 of their own, good for third in the league and just a couple of goals behind San Jose for second place.
But while it’s each team’s scoring prowess that grabs the headlines, each of these squads is pretty good in its own end as well. Tampa Bay’s 181 goals allowed is the fourth-best mark in the NHL, while Toronto’s not too shabby in that area as well with just 193 goals against (ninth in the league.)
Oddsmakers are projecting that offense trumps defense tonight, with Sportsbetting.ag posting -127 juice on the Over 6.5. This clash of Eastern Conference heavyweights is also priced quite competitively on the moneyline, with both teams available at close to even money at the time of writing.
It’s no surprise to see the Lightning at the top of the NHL standings this season, since it’s a perch the Bolts have inhabited for several seasons. But the way Tampa Bay’s winning games lately is a surprise, particularly for a team that has virtually clinched top spot in the NHL already and could be excused for taking it easy down the stretch.
Over its last four games, the Lightning has allowed just eight goals. Over Tampa Bay’s last 10, it’s allowed more than three goals just once — and the exception was a 4-1 loss at red-hot Boston, a game that was 1-0 Bruins until midway through the third period. But after a leaky defense ultimately derailed Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup chances last spring, it’s no surprise to see coach Jon Cooper stressing defensive play this season. Even though the Lightning seemingly doesn’t have much to play for with the Atlantic Division and conference title essentially sewn up, I’m expecting Tampa Bay to continue bringing this time of intensity down the stretch.
After a mediocre stretch in February, the Leafs seem to be right back on track as a dark horse Stanley Cup contender. Toronto comes into tonight on a 6-1-1 run in its last eight games, and it returns home after a 2-0-1 road trip through western Canada. Even though the Canucks and Oilers are going to miss the playoffs once again this year, a trip to visit Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton for three games in four nights is widely considered one of the toughest trips in the league.
Toronto came through it beautifully, however, thanks to some solid defense of its own. The Leafs limited the Flames, Canucks, and Oilers to two regulation-time goals each, and have now held 10 of their last 11 opponents to three goals or less. The Buds will need that defensive attention to detail once again tonight in what could be a flat spot for Toronto off that cross-country road trip.
When you think Leafs and Lightning, you think offensive fireworks, but that hasn’t been the case in recent meetings. The Under is 9-4-1 in the last 14 matchups, including 2-0 already this season, and I’m expecting another lower-scoring-than-expected matchup tonight.
I see a 3-2 or 4-2 type of game tonight, which would be more than enough to bring home the Under 6.5 here at +115 return. You can also shop around at various betting sites such as Bovada, which may offer the Over/Under at 7 with steep juice on the Under.