Senators at Maple Leafs Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/16/2013
It’s my first all-Canadian NHL free picks story of the season and probably my last, but I feel almost obligated to address the Ottawa Senators. You know the saying that if it wasn’t for bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all? Well, that aptly describes Ottawa thus far.
The Senators enter Saturday’s game having lost five of seven. They were beaten 4-2 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday (more on that in a minute), blowing a 2-1 second-period lead. It was the fourth straight game that Ottawa failed to score on the power play, with the Sens 0-for-18 in that stretch. Ottawa ranks No. 18 in the NHL in power-play percentage at 17.6, but that has been dropping steadily.
Toronto saw a four-game winning streak snapped on Thursday in a 3-1 loss at Carolina. Backup goalie Ben Scrivens got the call in that one over No. 1 James Reimer, who is likely out a few more games at least with a knee injury. It was the first time Toronto was held to one goal since a 4-1 loss to those same Hurricanes the game before the Leafs’ four-game winning streak began. Not unexpectedly the Leafs have lost every game in which they have scored less than two goals (0-4).
This is the first meeting of the season. The teams split six games last year, with Toronto going 1-2 at home.
Senators at Maple Leafs Betting Story Lines
Now to the injury-ravaged Senators. Their best offensive player, center Jason Spezza, is likely done for the season after recently undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in his back – he has had back problems previously in his career. Last season in 80 games, Spezza had 34 goals and 50 assists. This season he had five points in five games – Ottawa was 3-1-1 in those -- before going under the knife. The Sens aren’t exactly loaded with offense as it is, so that’s a crushing loss.
Even worse news arrived in that loss Wednesday to the Penguins as reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, quite possibly the best all-around defenseman in the NHL and a Top-5 player overall, suffered a gruesome torn left Achilles’ tendon injury when he was cut there by the skate blade of Penguins forward Matt Cooke as the two tangled along the boards. Cooke, who has a history of goonery, didn’t get a penalty on the play and wasn’t punished by the NHL. He did have to fight with Sens tough guy Chris Neil in the game.
Surgery, which took place Thursday, and rehab will knock Karlsson out for about six months. The injury has led some to talk about making cut-proof socks mandatory in the league. Some players are wearing kevlar socks, but most aren’t, and hockey players are notoriously picky about their equipment. The NHL said the league has not yet looked at making the cut-proof socks mandatory but has been pushing teams to promote them to their players.
Karlsson is the quarterback of the Senators and was leading the NHL in shots when he went down. He had six goals and four assists and was plus-6. Karlsson is fourth in the NHL in time on ice at 27:04. Last year, Karlsson had 19 goals and 59 assists in winning the Norris Trophy. He is now one of eight Senators on the injured list. Another is center Peter Regin, although he could return early next week from a chest injury. Also hurt but not on IR is first-line winger Milan Michalek. He missed Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury and is questionable for this one. He has two goals and six assists this year.
Clearly with all this offense missing, the team is going to have to rely heavily on goalie Craig Anderson, with GM Bryan Murray admitting: “Anderson has to be great. The defense has to be great and we'll need to take a 'by committee' approach to scoring goals.” Anderson has been great thus far, ranking first in the NHL in save percentage (.949) and second in GAA (1.58).
Toronto also has some injury problems as forwards Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul are on the injured list. Frattin was off to a career-best start with seven goals and three assists in 10 games but will miss probably two weeks with a knee problem. Lupul, who got a big new extension this offseason, is out until next month with a fractured forearm. He had 25 goals and 42 assists in 66 games a year ago. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson could return Saturday from a hip injury.
Senators at Maple Leafs NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Toronto has been opened at -145 with Ottawa at +125 and the total at 5.5. The Senators are 4-10 “over/under” (2-4 on road) this season and have lost their past three as a dog. The Leafs are 6-8 O/U (2-4 at home) and 2-1 in their past three as a favorite.
Ottawa is 0-4 in its past four road games. The Leafs have won just four of their past 19 at home. The under is 15-3 in Ottawa’s past 18 games playing on two days of rest. The under is 6-2 in Toronto’s past eight overall. The road team has won the past four meetings. The under has hit in four of the past five.
Senators at Maple Leafs Picks and Betting Predictions
You have to love the under here with the way Anderson is playing and with so many offensive threats sitting it out. And I am tempted to lean the Senators simply because I favor Anderson over Scrivens, but I just don’t see who is going to find the net for Ottawa. Plus, I believe the team will still be in the dumps over the Karlsson injury. So Leafs and under it is.
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