- What: 2022 NHL Regular Season – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- When: Friday, November 11, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. EST
- Where: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario
Two of the NHL’s most star-studded teams will face off on Friday night in what figures to be a tightly-contested battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs (7-4-3) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-6-2). The headlining matchup of Penguins’ Sidney Crosby vs. Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews is sure to be an entertaining affair, one which offers plenty of betting opportunities. Both teams have gotten off to slow starts, so a win on Friday could be critical.
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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Odds
|Pittsburgh Penguins||+135||O6.5 (-120)|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-160||U6.5 (EVEN)|
Heading into the matchup, it’s the Maple Leafs who are favored on their home ice. Toronto enters play with (-160) odds to beat the Penguins (+135), while the over/under on total goals is currently leaning towards the over at 6.5 goals (-120). It makes sense the books are predicting a high-scoring matchup, given the sheer offensive talent on these two teams.
The Maple Leafs have won three of their last four and had managed a three-game winning streak prior to losing 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. As for the Penguins, they snapped a seven-game losing streak on Wednesday in their 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals, a much-needed victory amid an ice-cold start in Pittsburgh.
Why Maple Leafs can win
The Maple Leafs got off to a horrid start to the 2022-23 NHL season, but it appears they’re starting to turn things around. Auston Matthews has been heating up of late, scoring four goals in his last five games, with seven total points in that span, and 14 points (six goals) on the season.
Toronto’s offense as a whole has finally begun to pick up steam. The Maple Leafs have scored three or more goals in five of their last seven games, including a five-goal outing against the Flyers on Nov. 2. Mitchell Marner, who was perhaps the team’s most criticized player out the gate, has caught fire once again, and is now up to 16 points on the year. Marner has recorded assists in seven consecutive games now and has two goals during that span as well.
On the year, the Maple Leafs have scored 40 goals across 14 games while conceding 38. Their goal-total ranks second-to-last in the Atlantic Division, but the team is tied for the second-fewest goals conceded. While Toronto is usually an offense-first team, headlined by Matthews, Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares, it’s been a different case for them this year.
The defense will be crucial to shutting down the Penguins. With so many weapons on Pittsburgh’s top two lines, Toronto’s defense will have to account for shooters at all times. If the Maple Leafs can continue to stifle their opponents in the attacking third, it’ll make life easier for Matthews and Co.
Why Penguins can win
It’s been a disappointing start for the Penguins, whose defensive struggles have crippled them out of the gate. Having scored 46 goals, the Penguins rank third in the Metropolitan Division. Defensively, however, Pittsburgh has conceded 45 goals, which is the third most in the Eastern Conference trailing only the Washington Capitals (46) and Columbus Blue Jackets (55).
The key for the Penguins to win this game is simple: Defense. If Pittsburgh allows Auston Matthews to run the show offensively, they will have next to zero chance of competing with the Leafs on the road. Prior to the 4-1 win over the Capitals on Wednesday, the Penguins’ defense had conceded a shocking 33 goals in its previous seven games. That’s an average of 4.7 goals per game, and the rough stretch included six-goal losses to the Sabres, Bruins, and Oilers.
Unless the Penguins are able to protect the net better, it doesn’t really matter what they produce on offense. For the Penguins’ offense to keep them close in games, they’d need to be averaging nearly five goals per game, which is far too tall a task to put on any unit. While the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Rickard Rakell, and Jeff Carter are having strong seasons, it hasn’t been enough to lift them to victories while the defense struggles.
The Penguins have three players with double-digit points this season; Sidney Crosby (15), Evgeni Malkin (13), and Jake Guentzel (12). If those players can get things going, particularly Crosby and Guentzel’s first line, the Penguins will have a chance to keep things close against the Maple Leafs. Ultimately, however, the honus for improved play will rest upon the defense.
Despite a strong performance on Wednesday night, I’m far from convinced by what I’ve seen from the Penguins’ defense. Both teams have overpowering offenses when at their best, and with Pittsburgh’s defense struggling, I’m envisioning plenty of goals between the two sides. In a game with offensive superstars on both sides of the puck, it’s an easy choice to roll with OVER 6.5 total goals in the match at (-120).
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