The Maple Leafs are in control of their own destiny and victory over defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh will bolster their chances of featuring in the playoffs. At the time of writing, Toronto, priced at 25/1 with bet365 to win hockey’s ultimate prize, are just one point behind the Boston Bruins with a game in hand on their rivals and three home fixtures at Air Canada Centre should help the Canadian side to reach the postseason.
Pittsburgh have now won three on the spin after snapping a losing run and the Penguins will be quietly confident of spoiling Toronto’s playoff party this weekend. Without a shadow of a doubt, the defending champions will be there or thereabouts once again at the business end of the postseason – and Pittsburgh’s offense have scored more goals than anybody else.
With 270 goals in 79 games, the Penguins are solid in attack and a trio of road games to end the year won’t affect their momentum ahead of the playoffs too much. As of April 6th, only the Washington Capitals have lost fewer games inside regulation and Pittsburgh may be the team to beat for the second year in a row.
KEY MAN: Sidney Crosby. The Pittsburgh star is in a class of his own at the top of the NHL’s goal scoring stats and Toronto will have their work cut out just to keep him quiet. He has failed to inspire confidence in recent matches however; he has scored just once in his last five appearances and fans will be expecting more from the Penguins captain during the playoffs.
On paper, Crosby is one of the best players in the league and Pittsburgh always play better when he is at his brilliant best. Watch this space; if Crosby performs well, the Penguins may have too much firepower.
Toronto Maple Leafs
For the Maple Leafs, it’s all about getting into the playoffs and giving themselves a chance of adding to their collection of Stanley Cup titles. Winning hockey’s most prestigious trophy is no easy feat but Toronto have the nous and talent to compete at the top level – and they know it.
In terms of form, Toronto are in decent nick. The Maple Leafs have won four of their last five regular season fixtures and victory over Pittsburgh would show that they are capable of going up against the best teams in the NHL. Toronto are back to stay and they are only going to get better as they gain more playoff experience.
KEY MAN: Auston Matthews. An easy choice. Matthews may be young but he is Toronto’s main man and their aspirations hinge on his form and fitness. The number one overall draft pick from 2016 has broken numerous records since stepping up to the NHL and he can lead the Maple Leafs back to the summit of ice hockey.
He has now scored six goals in his last six outings and it would be fair to state that Matthews is the key to Toronto’s hopes of reaching the postseason. Given time, he could blossom into an NHL great and the Maple Leafs will be hoping that this confidence exudes to the rest of the squad in the coming weeks.
It won’t be easy but Toronto might just about edge this one. Pittsburgh are one of the most consistent teams in hockey but, with Crosby struggling for form, the Maple Leafs could take full advantage as they look to secure their spot in the postseason. Historically, Toronto are one of the most successful teams in the National Hockey League and another Stanley Cup victory could follow at the end of this season; a win here will certainly help their chances.
MAPLE LEAFS 3-2 PENGUINS