Free NHL Picks: Take Healthy Capitals Against Injured Maple Leafs

Jason Lake

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 2:33 PM GMT

Every once in a while, the Washington Capitals lose. But will they lose Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs? Our NHL picks might never recover if they do.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of March 1: 1-1 ATS (–0.85 units), 1-8 ML (–8.27 units), 0-1-2 Totals (–1.00 units)

Sweet cuppin' cakes, we're getting our rear ends kicked here at the home office. Even the safest NHL pick in recent memory couldn't come through for us; the best team in the league, the Washington Capitals, lost 4-3 to the slumping Montreal Canadiens (+205 away) last week. What in the name of Yvon Labre is going on here?

Surely the Capitals won't let that happen again Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET, TSN) when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or will they? We don't have any NHL odds on the board at press time, presumably because the Maple Leafs traded about half their team in advance of Monday's deadline. But we'll go ahead and blindly put our faith in the Caps.

 

Who You Got?
While we're waiting for the oddsmakers, let's hit up the usual suspects at Hockey-Reference and build a kayfabe line of our own. They've still got Washington way out in front of everyone else at +0.95 on the Simple Rating System, and the Leafs are near the bottom of the charts at –0.54 SRS. Let's see, add 0.30 goals for home-ice advantage, carry the one... make it Washington –219 at the ACC.

Of course, these won't be the same Leafs we'll see on Wednesday. For one thing, they traded their best goalie, James Reimer (.918 save percentage), and stuck with Jonathan Bernier (.898 SV%) instead. He's been confirmed for this matchup, while the Capitals will respond with capable back-up Philipp Grubauer (.926 SV%). Toronto is also missing as many as eight players to injury, and we're not entirely sure which of their new acquisitions will be at the Verizon Center. Tough gig.

 

Winnik Is Everything
Then you have the tanking implications that come with living in the NHL basement. Toronto (21-30-10) is in last place at press time, 44 points behind the first-place Capitals (46-12-4) in the league standings. There's a new lottery system in place that will make it harder for the Leafs to secure that No. 1 overall pick, but there's obviously plenty of incentive for them to keep losing – even if head coach Mike Babcock insists they're trying their best to win.

As always, it's not the players themselves who are tanking, it's the front office. The Leafs have aggressively shipped out most of their higher-priced veterans in exchange for draft picks and scrubs. The Capitals, meanwhile, have added to their lineup in preparation for what should be a deep run into the playoffs. They even made a trade with Toronto, receiving two-way center Daniel Winnik (10 goals, 14 assists) and sending center Brooks Laich (one goal, six assists) up north in return. Once again, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

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Free NHL Pick: Washington
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline