Saturday nights are still known as the NHL’s marquee time of the week, with the iconic program Hockey Night in Canada destined to survive well into the 21st century.
Sunday nights at Madison Square Garden aren’t bad at all, though.
The calendar has turned to a classic ice hockey match-up in a noteworthy rink as teams from the NHL’s “Original Six” – the host New York Rangers and the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs – prepare to face-off at 7 PM Eastern Time in a contest with implications for both squads.
Toronto is an 8/5 favorite to prevail on the road. Goal-scoring is expected as the Over/Under total has reached (6.5).
Leafs Labor Against Top Goalies
Toronto has amassed 71 points, more than anyone in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division and trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Leafs’ Atlantic Division. But a great seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is not assured. The upstart Islanders are a point behind the Maple Leafs, and the Capitals will also look to make a run at a top seed down the stretch.
Also worrisome is that as the Toronto Star points out, New York’s Swedish ace Henrik Lundqvist will be the 2nd of 2 high-priced goaltenders that the Leafs have had to face while playing back-to-back nights. But Montreal’s Carey Price couldn’t hold off the squad in OT on Saturday as winger Zach Hyman notched 3 points in Toronto’s 4-3 overtime victory.
Long-time consistent play-maker John Tavares leads the Leafs with 33 goals on the season.
Almost Out of Range
The Rangers desperately need a hot streak. With less than 30 games remaining, the team sits 9 points out of a playoff seed with a dreary 23-23-8 record. The squad isn’t scoring enough goals despite a deep contribution from all 4 lines – winger Chris Kreider leads New York with 24 tallies. Mika Zibanejad and other key forwards are on the wrong side of the +/- ratio.
Last week ended with a pair of disparate outcomes. The Rangers managed a lovely 4-3 shoot-out victory over Boston in which young Russian forward Pavel Buchnevich shined. But the club gave up 3 goals in the 3rd period of a shut-out loss to Carolina on Friday.
Prediction and Recommended Wager
Toronto just played an emotional hockey game and must travel to New York in the dead of winter. Meanwhile the Rangers are a frantic team which has had a day to recharge its batteries for MSG. New York won’t solve Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen too often, but don’t be surprised to see the visitors need a period or even 40:00 to find their skating legs in a 1-1 or 2-2 deadlock.
Pick the Under (6.5) for the best percentage play in the Big Apple.
Photo from YouTube.