Saturday night presents us with the Battle of Ontario, which is a passionate rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. See what the sportsbooks are offering, and where you can find the best NHL betting value. The two teams couldn’t be at more opposite ends of the spectrum as the Leafs are a top-three team in the East while the Senators have lost five straight and continue to tumble down the ranks.
It’s also the Hockey Hall of Fame Game and beloved former
Leafs Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour and Joe Nieuwendyk will be honored before the
game. Expect the Air Canada Centre to be rocking on Saturday night.
Sportsbooks have updated their NHL Odds, now listing the Maple Leafs at -165 after having opened at -155. The game's total remains unchanged at 5.5.
The Ottawa Senators can win because…
The Leafs have been inconsistent lately.
They did start the year out with a 9-3-1 stretch but in
their last three games, they lost 7-0 to the Boston Bruins, 5-1 to the Florida
Panthers and blew a lead in St. Louis before coming back to register a 3-2
shootout win over the Blues.
Nobody wants to say it out loud, but it is possible that
the Leafs have gone cold.
No. 1 goaltender James Reimer is still out with a
mysterious injury and backups Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson have been
inconsistent fill-ins. Along with Reimer’s injury, the Leafs are without center
Tim Connolly and agitator Colby Armstrong.
Ottawa has been in a slump but much of that coincided
with an injury of their own to captain Daniel Alfredsson. He came back on
Friday night and played 19:36 while registering four shots on net. He’ll be in
better rhythm on Saturday night now that he’s got his feet wet.
While there’s a gap in the standings between these two
teams, they are closer to each other than you might think. They’ve split the
two meetings this season, each winning at home, but the Sens nearly made a
monumental comeback on October 8th when the Leafs nearly blew a 4-1
third period lead. They won the second meeting 3-2 on October 30th
and it’s likely this contest will again be decided by a narrow margin.
The Toronto Maple Leafs can win because…
Everything is going wrong for Ottawa.
The Sens have crashed harder than Charlie Sheen after one
of his benders, losing five straight and falling below .500. What’s holding
them back these days is scoring as they have just nine goals over that
five-game span. Their power play has gone cold as well, failing to scoring just
once in their last 16 opportunities.
They can’t even get reliable goaltending these days as
Craig Anderson has allowed 15 goals in his last five starts and he’s coming off
of one of his worst on Friday when he was pulled 2:25 into the game after
allowing two quick goals. He has an .882 save percentage on the year.
Throw in the fact that the Senators are playing on a
back-to-back situation on the road and their third game in four nights and
there’s good reason to like the Maple Leafs in this spot.
With a few Leafs greats being honored, expect the
home-ice advantage to weight slightly more in favor of the home team as they
kick their intensity up a notch.
Outlook & NHL Betting Prediction:
The Senators are struggling mightily these days and it’s
going to be hard to place one of your NHL picks on them in this contest – even if their offering NHL betting odds in the neighborhood of +150.
Goaltending has been a problem for them as has scoring,
and it’s pretty hard to win in the NHL when those two factors aren’t going your
With the Leafs hosting a special night on Saturday,
expect them to take Round 3 of the Battle of Ontario.