Toronto Maple Leafs vs Los Angeles Kings- NHL Pick for November 2nd
As the 2017-18 NHL season begins to take shape we must begin to review our betting strategies. If you’re a favorite bettor you probably have been disappointed. If you like the value play of an underdog then you have been cashing in. However, is that trend still continuing? We have begun to see some of the teams we thought would struggle come back down to Earth.
While the expected favorites in some cases are turning things around. The Vegas Golden Knights have dropped 2-straight. They have been the underdogs almost every game. Their 8-1-0 start was historic but the 6-game road trip they are on has been difficult thus far. On the flip side a few favorites have begun to return to form. The Canadiens were 1-6-1 but have won 3 of their last 4. Pittsburgh has been ugly on the defensive side of the puck but still lead the Metro division. Still, we have surprises.
The Devils are 2nd in the Metro and have won 2 straight. The Lightning are 6-1-1 at home and are rolling. The Capitals are below .500 and can’t put a run together. The Oilers, who were the preseason favorites to win it all are a terrible 3-7-1 blowing a lead Wednesday to the Penguins. It has come to a point in the season where “good is good” and “bad is bad”. If you can still find value in the Devils, Golden Knights, Blues etc. then take it. If the line is far too supportive of the struggling, Caps, Oilers, Rangers than fade the favorite. It’s a fun time in the NHL and we have 12 games to breakdown so let’s get to it!
- Toronto Maple Leafs (+130) at Los Angeles Kings (-144)
This certainly wasn’t a preseason favorite as a possible Stanley Cup preview. However, it’s hard not to think we may see these two in June 2018. The Kings have surprised everyone with a 9-2-1 start and lead their division. They are once again a top defensive club but will be challenged by the Leafs’ offense. Toronto snapped a 3-game losing streak. They are still contenders in the East and are a scary bunch on offense night in and night out.
The Maple Leafs were a surprise last season. They were dead last in the NHL in 2015-16, drafted Auston Matthews and made the postseason the next year. They took the Capitals to the brink but fell in the first round. This season they have not snuck up on anybody. Nonetheless, they have started the year 8-5-0 and for a brief time were the Vegas odds-on favorites to win the Cup. They are on a daunting California swing and have a chance to leave the Golden State with a 2-1-0 record with a win.
Los Angeles missed the playoffs last year and were thought to be rebuilding. The reemergence of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown has changed that view. They are 2-points behind the NHL lead with 19, and look like the dominant team that won a pair of Cups just a few years ago. They have a nice combination of youth and veterans. Jonathan Quick is also off to a Vezina -like season.
The Leafs have the 2nd best offense averaging 3.9 goals a game this season. The team is fraught with young talent on the offensive side of the puck. This team is led by sophomore Auston Matthews. He has 9 goals and 7 assists in just 13 games this year. Fellow sophomore William Nylander has 3 goals and 10 points playing on the top line with Matthews. The veterans have been good as well. Both James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Marleau have 5 goals this season. Marleau’s 5th was the game winner against the Ducks Wednesday and was the 100th time he had a game winning goal in his career. The power play has slowed but is still 6th in the NHL.
The Kings have not been known for their offense in recent years. However, their average of 3.3 goals a night which is 10th in the league has propelled them to their great start. Anze Kopitar has 7 goals and 14 points this season. He didn’t have 7 goals last year before the calendar flipped to 2017. Dustin Brown is off to a hot start as well. He has 6 goals and 6 assists in just 12 games. In 2016-17, he tallied 12 goals and 36 points over 80 games. If these two continue this pace look out for the Kings. The biggest surprise goes to rookie Adrian Kempe. The speedster has 6 goals on this young season.
The Leafs have not been the best defensive team this season. They rank 26th in the league surrendering 3.6 goals a game this year. Over their recent 3-game losing streak they allowed 13 goals. That isn’t a great pace but they held the Ducks to just one goal on Wednesday. They have depended heavily on Nikita Zaitsev. The Russian leads the team in ice-time and is a solid +7. Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly have been the leaders of the blueline for a few years. They are a combined -1 this season and need to be better on the backend.
Once again, the Kings are a top defensive club. In fact, in 2017-18 they are the best. They are surrendering a poultry 2 goals a game. The leader of the unit is Drew Doughty. He leads the team in ice-time with over 25 minutes a night. He is also a remarkable +10 this year playing frequently against the opposition’s top unit. Sophomore Derek Forbort has been a nice surprise. He has moved into a top-4 role and is a solid +10 on the year.
It’s the second night of a back-to-back for the Leafs and backup Curtis McElhinney is likely to start. It will be just his second start of this young season. His last start was October 18th where he made 33 saves and allowed 3 goals. It was a 6-3 win for the Leafs over Detroit. He has a career below win percentage below .500. He also owns a lifetime 2.95 GAA.
If you were doing your “way too early” awards ceremony, Jonathan Quick would be the Vezina winner. He boasts an amazing 1.95 GAA and a .942 save percentage. He had an injury-riddled 2016-17 campaign but has returned to form. His career 2.26 GAA and .916 save percentage show this start isn’t out of the ordinary.
- Auston Matthews v. Drew Doughty.
The only d-men that Matthews has faced this year at the caliber of Doughty was Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber. In those games he has 3 goals and 1 assist. Very few players have been able to slow him down. This is the second meeting between the Leafs and Kings. In the last game Doughty kept him off the scoresheet and to 6 shots on goal. He’ll look to do the same.
Earlier this year the Leafs handed LA their first regulation loss. This situation was far different. Now the Kings are at home and Toronto likely has their backup in net. I want to take the value of the road team here but I think LA gets it done.