Murphy’s 2018-19 NHL picks record: 58-71-3
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Free NHL Picks: Maple Leafs ML and ‘Over’
Best Lines Offered: Bovada
January has been a month to forget for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals. The Leafs are 4-7 since the Christmas break and the Capitals were 3-5-2 entering Tuesday’s game against San Jose. The All-Star break is coming at a good time for both teams, but it will be the Leafs who wake up just before the break and win a high-scoring game Wednesday night at Scotiabank Place.
For the Capitals, it’s a bit more understandable as it’s likely the Stanley Cup hangover has finally set in and they’ve simply hit a wall. That’s not excusing their poor play as of late, but that had to happen sooner or later and the break is coming at a perfect time.
For the Leafs, though, the losing is hard to fathom. Star forward Auston Matthews and goalie Frederick Andersen missed a good portion of time earlier in the season, and forward William Nylander held out for a contract until December 1. So there are three key players who seemingly are well rested and that’s why Leafs Nation is approaching panic mode as they watch their once-Cup-favorite team sputter into the break.
Well, have no fear, Leafs fans! The read here is yes, those aforementioned players are not suffering from fatigue, but rather still searching for a rhythm. Another break now will give them a chance to reset mentally and physically and if (big if!) GM Kyle Dubas can find a top pairing defenseman by the trade deadline, your team is still looking like a contender. On Wednesday, the Leafs will give us a glimpse of what could be and head off to the break with a win over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Maple Leafs are 29-19 against the spread and 13-12 at home. Toronto has scored 168 goals and allowed 137. They’re 21-23-24 on the over/under and 10-13-2 at home. The Leafs are 23-25 on the puck line and 10-15 at home. Mitchell Marner leads the team in assists with 42 helpers and in points with 61. John Tavares leads the team in goals with 30. Matthews has 20 goals and 22 assists, and Morgan Rielly leads the blue line with 13 goals and 25 assists.
The Capitals are 26-22 against the spread and 14-10 on the road. Washington has scored 162 goals and allowed 149. They’re 24-20-4 on the over/under and 13-9-2 on the road. The Caps are 22-26 on the puck line and 13-11 on the road. Alex Ovechkin leads the team in goals with 33 and points with 52. Forward Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in assists with 35. If Ovechkin plays Tuesday night, he’ll serve a one-game suspension Wednesday for opting to skip the All-Star Game.
Andersen is 21-11-0-1 with a 2.54 GAA and .922 save percentage. Garret Sparks is 6-3-0-1 with a 2.91 GAA and .907 save percentage.
For the Capitals, Braden Holtby is 17-11-0-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .909 save percentage. Backup Pheonix Copley is 10-5-0-3 with a 2.98 GAA and .903 save percentage.
For the Capitals, forward Christian Djoos is day-to-day with a leg injury.
For the Leafs, forward Tyler Ennis is out indefinitely with an ankle injury; forward Andreas Johnsson is day-to-day with a concussion; and defenseman Jake Gardiner is day-to-day with a back injury.
Final score prediction: Maple Leafs 5, Capitals 4 (OT)