Even though the New York Islanders have already clinched a playoff spot and the Toronto Maple Leafs are virtually assured a postseason berth, there will be no shortage of motivation for either side when they meet tonight on Long Island. The Isles could move within a point of Washington for first in the Metropolitan Division, setting up the potential for a huge game later this week when New York visits the Capitals. Toronto could still technically catch Boston for second in the Atlantic with a strong finish, but the Leafs’ biggest concern should be turning around a late-season swoon that has their fans panicking as the playoffs approach. Add in the dramatics of John Tavares making his second return to New York this season (he wasn’t well received in the first one), and Leafs/Isles makes for some must-watch TV tonight. Let’s see if we can find an angle to bet this game and turn a profit while we’re watching.
The moneyline price on this game is virtually the same as when the Islanders hosted Toronto 29 days ago. New York was a -115 favorite on home ice when it drilled the visiting Leafs 6-1, thrilling a fanbase that scorned Tavares all evening in their first chance to avenge their former superstar’s exit to Toronto. New York also won the previous meeting between the teams, blanking the Leafs 4-0 Dec. 29 in Toronto, which makes this pick ‘em price look pretty appealing on the Islanders.
Whenever things aren’t going well for the Leafs (and they aren’t right now, with Toronto losing seven of its last 10 games), goals against is usually the big issue for Toronto. That’s been the case for the Buds during this slump, with Toronto giving up at least four goals in seven of those 10 games. The total of 6 is the lowest in a Toronto game since the Leafs’ last visit to the Islanders, and I think that opens a lot of value on the Over. New York’s not the highest-scoring of teams, but the Isles have scored 10 goals in their last two games. Meanwhile, Toronto’s peppered the opposition with at least 40 shots in four of its last five games, and the Leafs’ offense is certainly due to break out.
Until Toronto proves that it can slow down an opposing offense, getting a total as low as 6 for a Leafs game seems like an absolute gift. My pick for this game is the Maple Leafs/Islanders Over 6 at -105 odds.