Wednesday Picks: The Maple Leafs Are Hot At The Right Time
The NHL is a league like many others. Winning streaks and losing streaks make or break your season, and the Maple Leafs are hot at the perfect time. The Leafs playoff spot is almost locked in at this point, but seeding for home-ice advantage could be the difference maker in the postseason.
The Maple Leafs will be testing themselves against the Blue Jackets; meanwhile, out in Colorado, the Avalanche will be taking on the Canadiens. Out in Vancouver, the Canucks and Panthers will be playing in the last game of the night.
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
Pick: Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are hot right now, but they will be going against a Blue Jackets team that is hovering just outside the playoff picture. Both sides have a lot to play for, but the Blue Jackets are mostly already in the playoffs.
This game should be the best one of the night. I expect them to both come out energized and excited to try and propel themselves into playoff position.
Nylander’s Recent Surge
William Nylander has led the way for the Maple Leafs in scoring recently. Toronto has nine wins in their last 11 games, and Nylander has scored in eight of them, including three multi-point performances. Nylander is second on the team in points and has been the igniter for many of the Maple Leafs recent wins.
His most notable performance came against the Lightning. Nylander had two goals and an assist, making him responsible for three of the four points the Leafs scored in their 4-3 win against the best team in the NHL.
Nylander’s recent play has paved the way for the Maple Leafs offense. He has been scoring at will and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Columbus’ Struggling Offense
Columbus’ offense has taken a considerable step backward from where they were last year. The Blue Jackets have the third-lowest goals per game average scoring just 2.6 goals per game. Columbus needs to start trending towards quality, not quantity mindset when it comes to shots on goal. They have recorded the fifth most shots on goal in the entire NHL, but they just can’t seem to find the back of the net.
Another thing the Blue Jackets will have to get going is their powerplay. They have the worst power play in the league right now, and in their last five, they have only connected on two of their 15 power play attempts.
To fix these issues, Columbus has been in many of the trade discussions for forward Rick Nash. It is clear that the Blue Jackets need a scorer if they are going to have success the rest of the year.
The Blue Jackets have a good defense, but it is not good enough to carry them throughout the playoffs. A trade for a player like Rick Nash could be the difference maker down the stretch.
I like the Maple Leafs to take this one. Their offense and defense have been phenomenal the last few games, and I don’t expect that to stop now. The Blue Jackets are coming off back to back games and are already struggling massively.
This game should be close for the first couple periods, but I expect the Leafs to pull away in the third and take this one.
Avalanche vs. Canadiens
The Avs went on an incredible streak that ended just a few weeks ago. Since then they have started to come back down to earth. Colorado has lost six of their last nine including a loss to Montreal. In their previous game, they struggled against a terrible Buffalo team.
The Avalanche do have one thing going for them in this game, however. The Canadiens are having a dreadful season and are at the bottom of the league. The Canadiens are both bottom ten in the league in scoring and goals against, but Buffalo is also.
I think the Canadiens will take this one. The inexperience of the Avalanche is going to cause them to drop some games down the stretch that they shouldn’t, and this is one of them. This game will be a tight contest all the way through, but I think that Montreal will come out victorious.
Canucks vs. Panthers
The Panthers are on the far outside of the playoff picture looking in; meanwhile, the Canucks are officially in the race for Rasmus Dahlin. Teams in the NHL don’t throw games, but they do start to get lethargic in their play.
The Panthers are seven games out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. This is the second game of a four-game road trip out west. They won their first game against Edmonton 7-5, and they will be looking to do the same against Vancouver.
The Canucks lack scoring, and it has shown all year long with their horrendous 2.6 goals per game. The defense of the Canucks has also been horrible all year, and it is why they are bottom ten in goals against.
Florida is a team that has struggled all year defensively, but going up against a Canucks team that can’t score I think they should win pretty convincingly. They still have a lot to play for and young scorers Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck will be looking to continue their solid seasons.
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