We have seven total games on tonight’s NHL schedule with a pair of earlier starts, but we’ll focus this NHL pick on the Flames vs. Maple Leafs in a 7 p.m. ET start from Toronto!
Flames vs. Maple Leafs Betting Odds
These odds are courtsey of one of the best hockey betting sites, BetOnline.ag.
|Flames (+131)||+1.5 (-180)||Over 6 (-117)|
|Maple Leafs (-145)||-1.5 (+160)||Under 6 (+106)|
Flames vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick Breakdown
After taking a 7-1 pounding from the rival Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Flames kicked off a five-game road trip in style on Monday, stymieing a high-octane Maple Leafs offense en route to a 3-0 victory over the North Division leaders.
The defensive effort was boosted by a shutout performance from David Rittich who was actually tested quite heavily in that one, but was up to the task and turned aside all 34 shots he faced in that one.
It was a surprise start for Rittich as it was announced shortly before gametime that starter Jacob Markstrom would be out with an upper-body injury, an ailment that will also keep him out of this one tonight as Rittich is thrust into consecutive starts for the first time this season.
His play has been inconsistent, however, which is more or less in line with his work so far in the NHL. The 28-year-old was excellent on Monday, but still owns a .909 Sv% on the season which is nearly identical to his .908 career mark in 121 NHL appearances. He’s been used lightly with just four starts and six appearances as the Flames’ backup behind Markstrom, and prior to Monday he was winless across his first three.
The Czech netminder will be playing behind a Flames defense that has been fairly average in terms of both surface numbers and the underlying metrics.
The Flames enter this one ranked 18th with 2.84 goals against per game on the season with a penalty kill that sits 15th at 79.4%. That PK was excellent on Monday, holding the Maple Leafs’ lethal power play to an 0 for 7 mark after the Oilers bagged a trio of power play markers in Calgary on Saturday.
As far as the advanced metrics go, the Flames rank between 16th and 18th in terms of scoring chances against/60, high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 at 5v5, as per Natural Stat Trick. Their 2.15 goals against/60 at 5v5 this season is right in line with their 2.13 expected mark, so it would appear the Flames have certainly deserved their defensive results to this point in the season.
Offensively, it’s more of the same as Calgary has been a little below league average, only this time the underlying metrics point to positive regression on the horizon.
On the surface, the Flames rank 23rd with 2.58 goals per game on the season with a power play that sits 15th with a solid 21.6% mark. That power play was the difference on Monday as the Flames scored a pair of power-play tallies while holding the Maple Leafs’ man advantage at bay.
Under the hood, however, the Flames rank fifth in scoring chances/60, fourth in high-danger chances/60 and eighth in expected goals for/60 at 5v5. Their 2.15 goals/60 on the season is under their 2.36 mark, and while not a big difference, they’re certainly generating chances with the best of em’. Shooting rates at 5v5 that rank in the bottom third of the league haven’t helped.
After managing just one goal in three straight games, a three-goal outing on Monday was a much-needed bounce back that they’ll look to build on in this one.
The Leafs’ powerful offense was certainly cooled off on Monday after they had buried 12 goals in wins over the Senators and Canadiens over their previous two outings.
Still, there’s zero doubt this is one of the very best offenses in the game and the numbers back that up with authority.
Toronto ranks third with 3.60 goals per game on the season and their 33.3% power play clip sits in a three-way tie for first in the league. At 5v5, they rank fourth in scoring chances/60, seventh in high-danger chances for/60 and 10th in expected goals for/60. The power play has certainly boosted the overall numbers, but the Leafs are as dangerous as it gets up front.
Something to keep an eye on tonight will be whether or not the Maple Leafs can get some production from the John Tavares/William Nylander duo. Both men have just one goal in 10 games for the month of February and have not been as dangerous at 5v5 as head coach Shedon Keefe would like despite sporting some dynamite underlying metrics. It would appear both players are well overdue for a breakout performance.
One area where the Maple Leafs have improved this season is on defense after their much-maligned back end got a makeover in the offseason. Former Flame T.J. Brodie was signed to pair with Morgan Rielly as the team’s top pairing while rugged veteran Zach Bogosian has settled in nicely to a bottom-pair role.
Overall, the Maple Leafs rank 10th with 2.70 goals against per game on the season with a penalty kill that sits 17th — two spots behind the Flames — at 78.8% after struggling on Monday.
However, the advanced data suggest the Leafs haven’t been quite as good as that surface number would suggest. At 5v5, they rank 23rd in scoring chances against/60, 20th in high-danger chances against/60 and 21st in expected goals against/60. Their 2.08 goals against/60 is a little under their 2.24 expected mark, but in terms of preventing chances the Leafs have been below average.
Not helping at the moment is the absence of veteran Jake Muzzin. Muzzin missed Monday’s loss with a broken bone in his face and remains out indefinitely. He’s been as steady as it gets alongside Justin Holl on the team’s second pair, often lining up against the opposition’s best offensive players, so his presence is going to be missed to be sure.
Also not helping is the injury situation in the Maple Leafs’ goal crease. While backup Jack Campbell has been out for some time with a lower-body injury, starter Frederik Andersen is also out right now with a lower-body injury himself. Like Markstrom, Andersen was a late scratch on Monday and will be out again for this one.
That means third-string netminder Michael Hutchinson will make his second straight start and third over the team’s last four games.
Hutchinson has worked to a 3.05 GAA and .914 Sv% across his two appearances this season, going 1-1-0 in that time. Hutchinson began the season with the Maple Leafs last year as well, posting an ugly 3.66 GAA and .886 Sv% across 15 appearances (11 starts) before the team traded him to the Colorado Avalanche. He allowed on goal in his lone regular-season start for the Avs, but also made four postseason appearances (three starts) and posted a 2.75 GAA and .910 Sv% in that time.
For his regular-season career, the 30-year-old has posted a 2.80 GAA and .905 Sv% in 129 starts, numbers that are nearly identical to those of his counterpart tonight in Rittich.
Flames vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick
The Flames pulled off the upset on Monday and could be in good shape to do so again tonight at what I believe are valuable odds. That said, I’m looking at that over/under at 6 and thinking we have a real good chance of exceeding that number.
For starters, I don’t have much faith in either netminder to be brutally honest. Both have been wildly inconsistent in their careers and are not starting-goaltending caliber to be sure.
I also don’t believe the Flames are going to be able to keep the Leafs’ power play at bay as they did on Monday while Toronto should have their legs in search of redemption in this one.
Without Muzzin and with regression on the horizon, I don’t have much faith in this Maple Leafs’ blueline either, especially with Calgary generating chances at a top-five rate this season.
You could roll the dice on the Flames here, but I’m liking the Over 6 in what I believe will be an extremely entertaining hockey game for those of us who enjoy an offensive track meet.
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