NHL odds: Maple Leafs vs. Lightning prediction, odds and pick

The Toronto Maple Leafs head to Central Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a possible first-round playoff preview. Time to continue our NHL odds series with a Maple Leafs-Lightning prediction and pick.

FanDuel March Madness

The Maple Leafs crushed the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 on Saturday night. With the game scoreless in the second period, Kevin Hayes scored a goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

However, Wayne Simmonds tied the game midway through the period. Consequently, Timothy Liljegren led the Leafs 2-1 before Ivan Provorov equalized for the Flyers.

In the third period, Toronto went up for good after a goal from Auston Matthews, their league-leading 51st goal of the season. Additionally, goaltender Jack Campbell returned from injury to guide the Leafs to victory with 29 saves. Toronto is 44-19-5 and is tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division.

The Lightning lost 5-4 in a shootout at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. The Lightning jumped in early, building 2-0 and a 3-1 lead.

However, Montreal fought back to tie the game at 3-3. Brayden Point got the Lightning back on their feet with a power-play goal to make it 4-3 at Tampa Bay late in the second period. Eventually, the Canadians fought back, tying again, this time on a goal by Jesse Ylonen.

Neither team scored in the extra period, which meant they had to play a shootout. The Canadians won the shootout 1-0 when Nick Suzuki converted a shot past goaltender Brian Elliot to seal the deal. The Lightning are 43-18-7 and are tied with the Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Courtesy of FanDuelhere are the Lightning Maple Leaves odds.

NHL Odds: Maple Leafs-Lightning Odds

Maple Leaves: +1.5 (-230)

Lightning: -1.5 (+188)

More: 6.5 (-105)

Sub: 6.5 (-115)

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Why the Maple Leafs could cover the spread

Toronto is firing on all cylinders. The Leafs have won four straight and are 7-3 in 10 games. Now they face a team they could face in the first round. Additionally, the Leafs own a win over the Lightning this season, winning 2-1 earlier in the season. So, the low-scoring deal is one the Leafs might have to play to cover.

However, the Leafs have been scoring at will recently, scoring five or more goals in four straight games. Now they will face an exceptional goaltender and will have to find a way to get the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy. To do that, Toronto needs Matthews to shine. The Rocket candidate Richard has 87 points in 62 games this season. Plus, he’s on a 12-game point streak. The Leafs are 8-3-1 in those 12 games.

In addition to Matthews, the Leafs have returning goaltender Jack Campbell. Campbell is 25-9-4 this season with a 2.66 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Additionally, he saved 24 shots in a 2-1 win earlier in the season. The Leafs need their offense to ignite the power play and get Campbell to repeat a thrilling performance from earlier in the year.

Toronto will cover the spread if Matthews gets going offensively, there’s a good goalie from Campbell and the power play is thriving. Those three things will determine if they go to Tampa and get the win. Overall, the Leafs can do it. Now they have to run.

Why lightning could cover the spread

Tampa Bay is one of the most talented teams in the league. Additionally, they are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Steven Stamkos leads the Lightning with 32 goals. Similarly, defender Victor Hedman distributed well with 47 assists. In addition to them, Nikita Kucherov has produced 43 points in 33 games. Of course, Vasilevskiy was the rock in the net, stopping most of the shots.

He’s 35-14-4 this season with a 2.37 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. In his career against Toronto, he is 12-7-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defensemen need to get past Matthews, Mitch Marner and the rest of the Maple Leafs explosive offense. Therefore, they cannot allow opportunities and certainly should not take penalties.

Moreover, the Lightning must win the uphill battle. In their win over the Leafs, Tampa Bay beat Toronto 44-25. One of the best ways to beat the Leafs is to hit them and force them off their game.

So the Lightning will cover the spread if their All-Stars produce. In addition, Tampa Bay must limit penalties, block shots and win the battle for hits. It’s a high-stakes game and the first of two games in Tampa over the next two weeks.

Maple Leafs-Lightning final prediction and pick

This game will have a playoff feel. Toronto and Tampa Bay could see each other in the first round, and home ice could play a pivotal role. Toronto is 19-12-3 away from home this year. Conversely, the Lightning are 21-6-5 at Amelie Arena. However, the Lightning are 9-5-3 at home against teams currently in the playoffs. This is the most difficult match of the day to decide. However, the Leafs have won two straight in Tampa. For this reason, the bet is on the Leafs to cover the spread.

Maple Leafs-Lightning final prediction and pick: Maple Leafs +1.5 (-230)

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Robert M. Larson