Bruins at Maple Leafs Picks and NHL Hockey Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/2/2013
Want to know why the Boston Bruins are considered top Stanley Cup favorites this season? They can thank the Toronto Maple Leafs, in part.
You see, Boston’s No. 1 goalie, first-line forward and the team’s top young defenseman all arrived courtesy of the Leafs – well, you have to credit the Bruins’ front office too. In 2009, Boston traded a good-but-not-great Phil Kessel to Toronto for two-round draft picks and a second-rounder. The first-round choices turned into Tyler Seguin, a future superstar at age 21, and 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton, a future star on the blueline.
The Leafs have been looking for a young No. 1 goaltender seemingly since Felix Potvin’s days. Toronto had one in its grasp in current Bruins starter Tuukka Rask. In 2006, after dumping past-his-prime Ed Belfour, the Leafs felt they needed a No. 1 in net. So they traded Rask, then a prospect, to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft. He was solid in the 2006-07 season but played only 19 games in the blue and white the following year and has been a journeyman since. He’s now playing hockey in Italy, where I wasn’t even aware they had hockey leagues.
Saturday is the first meeting of the season between these Original Six franchises.
Bruins at Maple Leafs Betting Story Lines
Boston enters off easily its worst outing of the season, falling 7-4 at home to Buffalo where Rask allowed a combined six goals in the second and third periods (Bruins had led 3-1), three of them to Thomas Vanek (he finished with five points). The two teams combined for 74 shots. Buffalo, which had been a four-game winless streak, seems to have Boston’s number at times as the Sabres were one of only three teams to score at least six goals in a game against the Bruins last year. The victory was Buffalo's first in Boston since March 10, 2011, and it was the Bruins’ first regulation loss this season. They had won 43 straight games when taking a two-goal lead.
There was a nice fight in the game – nice if you are a Sabres fan. Buffalo monster John Scott, all 6-foot-8, 258 pounds of him, dropped the gloves with Boston’s 6-2, 217-pound Shawn Thornton not even three minutes into the game (there have been a lot of early fights in the league this season). The result was predictable with Thornton taking several punches to the head. He would not play again the rest of the night and has been diagnosed with a concussion. He will miss at least 7-10 days. He has one goal and 25 penalty minutes on the year.
Toronto, meanwhile, got its first home win of the season on Thursday, 3-2 over the Capitals. Right winger Matt Frattin has become Mr. Clutch for the Leafs. In Toronto’s 4-3 overtime win in Buffalo on Tuesday, Frattin had two goals, and the second came at the 4:58 mark of overtime. It was the latest regular-season overtime goal by a Toronto player since the NHL introduced the five-minute OT in 1983. Against the Sabres, Frattin had the winner at 9:53 of the third. Frattin has scored 12 goals in his 61-game NHL career (four this year), but seven of those goals have come in the third period (six) or overtime.
One concern for the Leafs is that Kessel is struggling – leading fans in hockey-mad Toronto to call for trading him. He has fired 33 shots on goal, but not a one has gone through yet. The Leafs are offensively challenged as it is, so if Kessel doesn’t get going then Toronto will miss the playoffs yet again. He has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four seasons. His next goal will be No. 100 as a Leaf.
Toronto won’t have fourth-line winger and enforcer Mike Brown for at least a week due to a shoulder injury. The team called up Ryan Hamilton, the MVP of last week’s AHL All-Star Game, and he started on that line Thursday. He wasn’t a factor, playing a little over seven minutes. Hamilton is the all-time goal scorer (75) for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Thursday was just his third career NHL game.
Bruins at Leafs NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
Boston opened at -130/Toronto /+110 at BookMaker, with the total at 5.5. The Bruins are 4-3 “over/under” this season and 2-0 on the road. Toronto is 4-3 O/U and 1-2 at home. The Leafs are 3-1 as a dog this year. The Bruins are 5-1-0 as a favorite.
The Bruins are 8-2 in their past 10 road games. They are 9-2 in their past 11 games when their opponent allows two goals or fewer in its previous game. The Leafs are 3-13 in their past 16 games. Toronto is 1-6 in its past seven after a win. Boston is 4-1 in the past five in Toronto. The over is 4-0 in the past four there.
Bruins at Leafs Picks Betting Predictions
Who will step up for Thornton in the enforcer role for Boston? The Leafs are among the league leaders in fighting majors, and while Brown is out they still have tough guy Colton Orr and recently claimed 6-foot-5, 248-pound beast Frazer McLaren off waivers from San Jose. Here’s all you need to know about that guy: He’s played 40 career NHL games and has 85 penalty minutes. McLaren was supposed to practice Friday, so he could well be in the lineup Saturday.
Assuming Rask starts, this will be just his second road game of the year. In the first, he took an overtime 4-3 loss at the Rangers (called that one). I’m not a big fan of Toronto netminder James Reimer, but he has three won of his four starts and two straight. Still, the Leafs were completely dominated by Boston last year, losing all six games (one by 8-0) by a combined score of 36-10. Take the B’s and the under.
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