NHL Betting: Bet On the Boston Bruins, Fade the Toronto Maple Leafs
In some ways, the NHL’s Atlantic Division has been the most surprising in the league to date. While the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins have picked up where they left off, the likes of Tampa Bay and Toronto, both of whom were two of the four favorites to win it all, have stumbled through the first seven weeks of the season. Florida, Montreal, and Buffalo have filled the void, with all three teams playing high-quality hockey at times, and looking as though they will compete for playoff berths. Let’s take a look at a couple Atlantic Division teams and what sort of betting opportunities they may provide through the rest of November.
Boston Bruins (Bet On)
For a team in the division lead, who currently has a 13-3-5 record, Boston’s recent run qualifies as the first hiccup of what has often been a dominant campaign. The Bruins have won only twice in the last seven games. Ultimately, this comes down to trusting what we’ve seen. Boston has dealt with a few injuries during this stretch, with top defender Tory Krug missing four games, Jake Debrusk absent for five, and captain Patrice Bergeron out for the last two matchups. While certainly not the only reason for Boston’s dip in form, the injuries came at a particularly rough time, as the Bruins played five games in nine days, with two road games in between three home battles. A 5-4 loss at Montreal came the night after a physical win against the Penguins in Boston, and the cumulative impact of a tough schedule combined with a team that was banged up, is a reasonable explanation for what’s gone wrong. It’s also important to keep in mind, that despite the lack of wins, the Bruins have not lost in regulation over the last five games. This is a sign of a legitimate contender, one that grinds out points where it can, when it’s not at its best.
Last night, the Bruins treated bettors to a taste of better times. Playing in New Jersey, the Bruins throttled the Devils 5-1. Debrusk returned to the lineup, and although he did not log a point, he played 15 valuable minutes. Tuukka Rask and the Bruins defense looked great, and registered their tenth game of the year giving up two or fewer goals. To close out the month, the schedule eases up a little bit. First, a two-game home stand against a Buffalo team that is 2-6-2 over its last ten, and a Minnesota club with the second-worst goal differential (-13) in the Western Conference. The Wild are 4-10 on their travels, and the Bruins have yet to lose in regulation on home ice. While a road game against rival Montreal on Tuesday could be difficult, the Bruins close out the month first against lowly Ottawa, before heading back home to face a Rangers team that has lost two straight, including a 9-3 drubbing at the hands of the Lightning.
Ultimately, when you hop back on a team that has shown a touch of inconsistency for the first time all year, it’s about trust. One thing that builds that trust as a bettor is finding a team that does not play down to its competition. Boston’s easy win against New Jersey is yet another example of the focus the Bruins have had for most of the season. Even including the recent results, Boston has lost in regulation only three times in 18 games, and only a single time against a team that sits outside of the playoff spots. Sure, it is a big price to lay if you want to grab a title contender against struggling outfits like Minnesota, Ottawa, and New York. But, there’s reason to trust the Bruins to stay focused in these spots.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Fade)
The Maple Leafs came into this season as a trendy pick to win it all. After managing to get Mitch Marner signed, Toronto was bringing back perhaps the most exciting collection of forward talent in the entire NHL. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Marner were surely ready to take the next step. After another heart-breaking playoff defeat to the Boston Bruins, better times were still ahead. After all, there was no doubt that the Leafs speed and skill presented huge problems for the Bruins throughout the seven-game series, and getting the band back together presented this Leafs team with a real chance to breakthrough.
If there was a weakness for the Leafs, it’s precisely that the roster is too imbalanced. Paying so much money to its top-four forwards means it’s difficult to have the sort of depth on the rest of the roster to deal with the grind of an NHL season. Unsurprisingly, the Leafs disastrous recent run of form, that has seen Toronto lose five straight games in regulation, coincided with a Mitch Marner ankle injury that could keep him out for more than a month. Marner is the best passer on the team, and its best penalty-killer at the forward position. A key cog on the Leafs power play, Marner’s absence is a key reason that the club has scored only one goal with the man-advantage over the last four games. There’s simply no one on this roster that can fill the role occupied by Mitch Marner.
There is a tendency when a good team like Toronto hits a losing streak like this, to find the spot where it will begin to bounce back. While that time will surely come, it could be awhile yet. After all, the Leafs are in the midst of one of their longest and most arduous road trips of the season. A six-game journey that has Toronto away from home for twelve days, is a disaster for a team that has lost itself. The Leafs are not just on the road, they’re all over the place. Dealing with a multitude of time zone changes, the Leafs’ schedule has taken them from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas, and now will see them head to Phoenix, then Colorado, then to Detroit, and finally over to Buffalo before finally playing a home game on Saturday, November 30.
After a particularly ugly 6-1 loss at Pittsburgh, the Leafs did respond with a better effort on Tuesday in Las Vegas, before falling 4-2. Despite the increased competitiveness, the Leafs still surrendered the first goal for the 18th time in 23 games. Toronto is regularly putting itself in a hole, and in the NHL, it’s very hard to dig out. Now, the Leafs will be desperate to get back to winning ways, but the schedule may just be too much. First up is an Arizona Coyotes team that has won four of five, including its two most recent games, both 3-0 shutout wins at home. That’s followed two days later with a battle in Colorado against the speedy Avalanche, who have won five of six. While one would think the Leafs would surely get something out of games in Detroit and Buffalo, it’s hard to say what sort of effort the team will be able to give on the tail end of a road trip that has started poorly. Toronto is playing desperate hockey, and is usually playing from behind. The Maple Leafs have not played with a lead since they were up 3-1 against Los Angeles way back on November 5th. It will eventually get better for a Toronto team with too much talent not to regroup. But for now, it may just get worse.