Islanders at Maple Leafs Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 4/18/2013
There are playoff implications for both the New York Islanders and the Toronto Maple Leafs here — and that’s surprising since neither team is exactly familiar with the postseason. Toronto last made the playoffs in 2004, and the Islanders have only been in once since then — a brief five-game appearance in 2007. The Leafs are all but certain to end their streak of futility, but they sit just three points behind the suddenly-struggling Bruins for fourth place. The home-ice advantage would be very significant in the first round, so closing that gap, though a longshot given that Boston has two games in hand, is a big deal. The Islanders sit in seventh. They could climb above the Senators into sixth. Their bigger focus, though, is on maintaining the three-point gap they have on the Rangers and Jets to stay in the playoffs. Both teams really need a win here.
Islanders at Maple Leafs Betting Storylines
The Islanders are, suddenly and surprisingly, red-hot. They haven’t lost in regulation in eight games and are 6-0-2 over that stretch. The formula for that success is simple: they have allowed just 1.5 goals per game over that stretch thanks to spectacular play from goalie Evgeni Nabokov. They are a team that believes in themselves right now, and that’s just what teams that succeed in the postseason need to be. They are going to get tested down the stretch, though — they have played their last home game, so this is the beginning of a five-game road trip to complete the season. That is far from ideal, but it is much better for the Islanders than most — their 12-5-2 road record is a better winning percentage than every team in the East except Pittsburgh and Montreal. They actually have a losing home record, so this scheduling could be good for them — as long as they get off to a good start here.
The Leafs are comfortable at home, but they need to bounce back from a humiliating loss last time out. They fell 5-1 in Washington, and the game wasn’t as close as the score. They had won seven of nine going into that contest, so confidence was high. Now their psyche — which seems to be far from the least fragile in the league — will be tested as they bounce back and try to get their focus in line.
The biggest key for the success of the Islanders has been the strong play by 2009 first-overall pick John Tavares. He has been very good the last three seasons but has taken a step forward in terms of leadership and effectiveness this year. It’s something of a concern, then, that Tavares hasn’t recorded a point in his last three games — a dry spell like he has had just one other time this season. The team will need him to perform at a high level the rest of the way to maintain their playoff position. This setting should help him get back on track. He is from Mississauga — a suburban city that borders Toronto — so this is a comfortable setting in front of friends and family. He’s obviously comfortable close to home — in seven games at the Air Canada Centre over his career, he has three goals and six assists.
Surprisingly for a game this late in the season injuries aren’t much of an issue here. Toronto has Joffrey Lupul back in the fold, so their only issue is the potential absence of Carl Gunnarsson. The Islanders don’t face any particularly significant absences, either. Injuries are so often a factor this time of year, but they won’t decide this one.
Islanders at Maple Leafs NHL Odds and Betting Trends
The Islanders have gone “under” the total in their last four road games. The last four meetings between these teams have gone “over” the total. The Islanders are just 7-19-1 in their last 27 games in Toronto. Toronto is 7-1 in their last eight home games.
Islanders at Maple Leafs Picks and Betting Predictions
The Islanders are an attractive road underdog here. They are playing very well, getting exceptional goaltending, and know how much they need to keep winning. Toronto has less direct motivation because their playoff spot is secure, and their game against Washington was a disaster. The Islanders are the pick.
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