Leafs Can Set Few Team Records by Beating Visiting Panthers

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 4:49 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018 4:49 PM UTC

The Florida Panthers are in Toronto on Wednesday for their final meeting of the regular season with the Leafs, and this game is much more important for the visitors.

Florida (85 points) at Toronto (97 points)Free NHL Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: SportsBetting

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As usual, a light schedule on Wednesday around the NHL with four games. Panthers-Leafs begins at 7:30 p.m. ET from the Air Canada Centre, a place I highly recommend you go watch an NHL game if ever given a chance. It’s not like anything in the USA.

Florida leads the season series 2-1, each low-scoring game decided by a goal and two of them going to at least overtime. The one in Toronto the Leafs won 1-0 on Feb. 20 behind 40 saves from Frederik Andersen and a first-period goal from James van Riemsdyk. No Maple Leafs player has more than a point vs. Florida this year. Star Auston Matthews has played in two games and doesn’t have any. Andersen is 1-0-1 with a 0.48 goals-against average and .988 save percentage.

Vincent Trocheck leads Florida with three points vs. the Maple Leafs, all assists. Season leading scorer Aleksander Barkov has a goal and is minus-2 against Toronto. Roberto Luongo is 2-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and .965 save percentage.

The home team has won five straight in the series.

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Differing Motivations

Toronto is essentially locked into third place in the Atlantic Division and will face either Tampa Bay or Boston in the first round of the playoffs, whichever finishes second in the division. So, in reality, the Leafs have very little to go all-out for the rest of the regular season and might not want to risk injury. Then again, when you play not to get hurt you often do get injured. Toronto just got its star Matthews back last Thursday after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury.

On Monday, the Leafs were stunned at home by Buffalo, 3-2, ending their franchise-record 13-game home winning streak. Toronto also thus remains on 45 overall victories, one shy of setting a team record. The team previously won 45 in 1998-99, 1999-00, and 2003-04. Toronto still has some work to do to reach the team record of 103 points set in 2003-04. Finally, the Leafs’ next home win would be No. 27, setting a single-season record.

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5 Takeaways: #FlaPanthers shut out the Islanders to pull within one point of the playoffs.

» https://t.co/x2dkmKnkYo pic.twitter.com/QvkbauLsSX

— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 27, 2018

Florida, meanwhile, needs every point possible as it fights for a wild-card berth. Those two spots are going to some combination of most likely Columbus, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Florida. Only the Panthers have a losing record on the road among that group. This is game No. 2 of a four-game trip. They won 3-0 at the Islanders on Monday and then go to Ottawa on Thursday and Boston on Saturday. After that, just one road game left: back to Boston on April 8, and the B’s might have nothing to play for by then.

Will it be James Reimer, who has won five straight starts following Monday’s shutout, or Luongo on Wednesday? Luongo has missed the past two with a minor upper-body injury. The 38-year-old is having a nice season, going 15-10-2 with a 2.55 GAA and .927 save percentage. He missed about 10 weeks with a groin injury earlier in the season.

Not sure I have the stones to recommend the Panthers winning here even though they are 13-3-1 in their past 17 overall. Toronto is just too strong at home and has won 10 of its past 11 there vs. teams with a losing road record. I do expect to Florida to play with desperation, though, and expect another low-scoring one-goal meeting. For a Wednesday NHL pick, go ‘under’ the total; it has hit in four straight meetings.

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