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Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook.
|O 6.5 (-105)
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-1.5
|U 6.5 (-115)
The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in a cross-division battle. The Penguins have five more points than the Maple Leafs but have played four less games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins did not start the season very well but have been one of the league’s best since December. This is in large part to winger Jake Guentzel. Guentzel is having an excellent season and leads the Penguins with 51 points. In addition to Guentzel, center Sydney Crosby, defenseman Kris Letang, and goaltender Tristan Jarry have been helping the Penguins with their strong seasons. Crosby just scored his 500th goal and has 46 points, Letang is a veteran who plays over 25 minutes a game and has 39 assists, and Jarry is quietly a top-10 goaltender in the NHL. Jarry only allows 2.2 goals per game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are having another strong regular season. They have one of the more well-balanced rosters in the league with Auston Matthews, Morgan Reilly, and Jack Campbell. Matthews is still a stud with his stick and has 32 goals, Reilly is a veteran defenseman with 35 assists, and Campbell is a top-10 goaltender who allows less than 2.4 goals per game. The Maple Leafs also have three efficient centers, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Mitchell Marner, that have a combined 133 points and 82 assists. The Maple Leafs have home-ice advantage and play better team hockey than the Penguins, so I have to give them the edge in this game. However, it will still be a hard-fought battle on both sides.
Toronto Maple Leafs beat Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. Pittsburgh Penguins cover, Over 6.5 goals.
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|Pittsburgh Penguins||Head-to-Head||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Mike Sullivan||Head Coach||Sheldon Keefe|
|31-11-8 (1st in Metropolitan Division)||Standing||31-12-3 (3rd in Atlantic Division)|
|Jake Guentzel (51)||Points||Auston Matthews (57)|
|Jake Guentzel (25)||Goals||Auston Matthews (32)|
|Kris Letang (39)||Assists||Morgan Reilly (35)|
|Jake Guentzel (30)||+/-||Alexander Kerfoot (15)|
|Jake Guentzel (3.61)||Shots (Per Game)||Auston Matthews (4.56)|
If the Penguins win this game, it will be their fifth win in a row. However, Toronto is an excellent team and difficult to beat. If the Penguins want to secure this road victory, they have to avoid penalties and limit the Maple Leafs’ shots.
The Maple Leafs have the best power-play unit in the league. They convert on over 31% of their power-plays. They score almost ¼ of their total goals on the power-play. When a team is that successful with a man advantage, you cannot give them those opportunities. The Penguins have to play smart hockey and avoid committing penalties.
The Maple Leafs shoot a lot. They average 34.7 shots per game and 3.59 goals. When you shoot that much, you will score a lot. The Penguins defensemen have to identify the Maple Leafs key shooters and not give them easy shots.
The Maple Leafs have an excellent chance to end the Penguins’ four-game winning streak. Even though they have home-ice advantage, they need to focus on riding the hot hand and drawing penalties.
The Maple Leafs have a handful of good players who can score. Their best scorer is Auston Matthews, but he is not always the one playing hero. The Maple Leafs have to ride the hot hand and let whoever is feeling good take a lot of shots. Sometimes your hero comes from unlikely places, and that may be the case in this game.
The Maple Leafs have an outstanding power-play unit. In fact, they have the best power-play unit in the league. They need to draw penalties to have those opportunities to score. That may be the difference between them winning and losing.
Usually, I would not pick Sydney Crosby as the Penguins key player; he is a generational talent and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he is also 34 and not the player he once was.
Crosby has an efficient 14 goals and 32 assists. However, those are not incredible stats. I picked Crosby as the key player because he scored his 500th career goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in his last game. He probably feels pretty good about himself and expects to have another good game against the Maple Leafs.
I expect Crosby to score another goal in this game. The veteran center only scores 12.5% of his shots, but I expect one shot to go in the back of the net.
Defenseman Morgan Reilly may be having his best season yet. Reilly has not scored much, but he does have 35 assists, lead the Maple Leafs with a TOI of 24:22, and have a +/- of 14.
Reilly is not a flashy player, but he does all the right things. He is the ultimate team player, and that is why he is the Maple Leafs key player.
Defensively, the Penguins should not expect him to score; Reilly shoots a lot but barely converts. They should, however, expect him to make passes to the Maple Leafs scorers. The Penguins have to cut off those passes.
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|Pittsburgh Penguins vs Toronto Maple Leafs Information|
|What||Pittsburgh Penguins vs Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Where||Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario|
|When||Thursday, February 17, 7:00 PM EST|
|How to Watch||ESPN+|
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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