NHL Picks: Maple Leaves vs. Penguins

David Schwab

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 10:00 PM GMT

The Toronto Maple Leafs will try and knock the Pittsburgh Penguins from the early ranks of the unbeaten when the two teams clash this Wednesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center.

NHL Game Preview and Pick- Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The puck is set to drop at 4 p.m. (PT) and the game will be available locally in each team’s home market. Which side of the puck are we on for our NHL free picks today?

Year-to-Date NHL Record: 0-1

Maple Leafs Overview

Toronto opened the season with a 2-1 victory over Montreal this past Saturday as a 128-road underdog with the total staying UNDER the 5.5-goal line. It came up a goal short on Monday night in its home opener with a 2-1 loss to Buffalo as a 118 favorite. The total line once again stayed UNDER 5.5.

With a total of just three goals in their first two games, the Maple Leafs are going to have to quickly find the form that led to a goals-per-game average of 2.77 in 2012, which was the 10th-highest total in the NHL. Give credit to Nazem Kadri for scoring two of their three so far, but the Leafs are going to need players such as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupol to start putting the puck in the net the same way they did last year after finishing 1-2 on the team in goals scored.

Penguins Overview

Pittsburgh has had little trouble finding the back of the net in its first two games with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia as a 119-road favorite followed by a 6-3 rout of the New York Rangers this past Sunday as a slight 102 favorite on the road. The total stayed UNDER the 6-goal line against the Flyers but easily went OVER the 5.5 goal total set on the NHL odds lines in its last outing.

The fast start by the Penguins is not all that surprising considering that they led the league in scoring last season with an average of 3.33 goals-per-game. A healthy Sidney Crosby combined with a couple of goal-scoring machines in both Evgeni Malkin and James Neal should keep this team at the top of the offensive rankings all season long. The key for Pittsburgh will be the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. When he is on he can be one of the top goalies in the league, but he has struggled with consistency problems in the past. He looked sharp on opening day against Philadelphia, turning back 26 shots. His backup, Tomas Vokoun got the start against the Rangers and gave-up three goals on 31 shots so look for Fleury to be back in net for this game.

Maple Leafs vs. Penguins Betting Lines and Trends

BetOnline Money Line: Maple Leafs +200 - Penguins -221

Bet Online Total Line: 6

The Maple Leafs are 7-19 in their last 26 Eastern Conference games and 4-9 in their last 13 games on just one day’s rest. The total has gone OVER in their last four games against the Atlantic Division.

The Penguins are 19-7 in their last 26 home games and 15-6 in their last 21 games following a win. The total has gone OVER in nine of their last 11 games at home.

Head-to-head in this matchup, the home team has won the last five meetings and the total has gone OVER in six of the last seven games played in Pittsburgh.

[gameodds]7/218131/43/us[/gameodds]

Maple Leafs vs. Penguins Game Prediction

I like the Penguins to run their winning streak to three, but the money line is just too high to take that chance. The top play in this matchup is Toronto and +1.5 on the puck line as it keeps this a one-goal game in a valiant effort on the road.

NHL Free Picks: Pittsburgh 4   Toronto 3 (lines provided by BetOnline)