Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings NHL Picks

David Lawrence

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 12:42 PM GMT

More than 105,000 people will be on hand on Wednesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Winter Classic…assuming everyone shows up. Temperatures at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan are expected to be in the teens, so they’ll have to drink plenty of hot chocolate to stick around for the full three periods.

The matchup itself will be fairly entertaining as the two contestants are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with 45 points apiece. They are currently occupying the final two playoff spots.

[gameodds]7/251837/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

The Toronto Maple Leafs can win because… 

The Red Wings were horrible in December. While the Maple Leafs catch plenty of flak for tapering off after a hot start to the season, the Red Wings have done the same. It’s even hard to believe that the Red Wings won six of their first eight games this year because they’ve won 12 of 33 games since. The Red Wings were terrible in the final month of 2013 as they’ve dropped eight of their last 11. 

The Maple Leafs have had their fair share of struggles but they’re worth considering for your sports picks because the Red Wings are brutal at home. They have just six wins in 22 tries in front of their home audience, so their home-ice edge has been more of a detriment. 

Toronto has won two straight and is 3-0-2 in their last five. They’ve finally got some momentum on their side, which is why they’re worth a shot as a dog on the NHL odds.

The Detroit Red Wings can win because… 

The Maple Leafs have been a pathetic road team of late. They have registered just one road win in their last 11 away games and are now just 6-8-4 on the year when playing away from home. 

The difference between the slumps of both teams is that the Red Wings has been injury-induced. Goaltender Jimmy Howard has played just one game since December 10th, Daniel Alfredsson missed the team’s last game and Henrik Zetterberg has missed 11 games. It’s no coincidence that the team’s slump coincided with Zetterberg’s injury. He missed 28 days but still leads the team with 33 points. With him in the lineup, the team is averaging 2.79 goals per game and allowing 2.48. Without him, they averaged 1.91 goals per game but allowed 3.00 goals per game to their opponents.

The Red Wings have gotten healthier, so expect to see the quality, winning team back on display on Tuesday.

Outlook & Pick 

These two teams squared off a couple of Saturdays ago (December 21st) in Toronto and the Red Wings won 5-4 in a shootout. This time around, I’m poised to take the Maple Leafs with my NHL picks because Detroit is not a very good home team. With the odds offering up some value on the Leafs, I’d rather take a shot with them – especially since they’ve been playing quality hockey over the last couple of weeks. 

Pick: Maple Leafs +110 at Pinnacle