The curtain is officially closing on the NHL season and Toronto is hoping to finish in winning fashion, as are their hosts, the Winnipeg Jets. Let’s analyze this matchup between these North division rivals and keep cashing our NHL picks!
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Winnipeg Jets
Friday, May 14, 2021 – 08:00 PM EDT at Bell MTS Place
The Maple Leafs have one regular-season game remaining but their status as the No. 1 seed in the North Division is etched in stone. Once this game against the Jets is over, they will prepare for a first-round postseason date with the Canadiens. Entering Wednesday night’s contest against the Senators, Toronto had won seven of eight but a victory was not in the cards as they fell, 4-3, in overtime despite being as high as a -180-road favorite at many of the best online sportsbooks.
The wildcard in Wednesday’s game was Toronto goalie, Frederik Andersen, returning to action after being on the shelf for the last seven weeks with a nagging knee injury. Since that time, backup Jack Campbell has made the most of his opportunity, vaulting from a forgotten man on the bench to a brick wall between the pipes.
Ottawa took advantage of the rusty Andersen and scored just nine seconds into the overtime frame. Andersen stopped 24 of 28 shots while Auston Matthews tallied his 41st goal of the season in the third period to tie it up, before bowing in OT.
“Our guys know what’s around the corner here and nobody wants to go into it too banged up,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You’re a little shy on everything that you’re doing and you’re just not quite into it mentally. But it’s a 56-game season and we’re only through 55.”
Jets Set in Third Spot
What a time to go ice cold, right before the playoffs. But that’s what the Jets did, dropping nine of 11 as they enter the 10th and final meeting with the Maple Leafs. Just as Toronto has nothing to play for, the same can be said of Winnipeg as they have a lock on the No. 3 seed in the all-Canadian North Division. Win, lose or draw, the Jets will be traveling to meet the second-seeded Oilers when the playoffs open so this game is nothing more than a confidence booster if they happen to skate out with a win.
In Winnipeg’s game against Vancouver on Tuesday night, they secured the second of their two wins over the last 11 games with a dominating 5-0 victory. Blake Wheeler scored twice and had two assists while Connor Hellebuyck turned aside all 24 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.
“You’ve got to give the guys a lot of credit to keep pushing and kind of keep doing the right things and the same things,” he said. “Ultimately when it comes to playoff time, it’s a lot harder to score goals and that’s the way you score goals. You just keep doing the same things over and over again with that blind faith that you’re going to get rewarded for it.”
Wanna Make a Bet?
Unlike most games, the biggest concern for both teams will not be getting the W but escaping unscathed as they brace for the postseason. The NHL odds on this contest reveal the visiting Maple Leafs as -178 favorites but the question we must ask ourselves is – are they worth it?
The short answer is no. Not in this spot, and not at that price, at least. Toronto has a 6-3 mark against Winnipeg this season but has won all four games in the cozy confines of Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place. That stat alone should be enough to work the squares into a lather and convince them to send it in hand over fist on the Leafs.
However, the Jets need to build off of their 5-0 victory and if they could take down the top dog in their division, it would go a long way towards creating a winning atmosphere as they prep for the Oilers in the first round. Let’s take a flier with the Jets as a live home dog and cash a ticket!
Free NHL Pick: Jets +148 at SugarHouse