The Toronto Maple Leafs are back in business after a mid-season slump. Losing somebody of Auston Matthews’ stature for a considerable spell would break most ice hockey teams but Toronto have managed to bounce back stronger. With Matthews now back in action, Mike Babcock’s men are well placed to build momentum ahead of the playoffs.
Matthews actually scored in Toronto’s 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators earlier this week and he could be set for another big effort here. The Maple Leafs have won five of their last 10 National Hockey League fixtures and a second successive triumph beckons. At 10/1 to win the Stanley Cup with 888sport, Toronto are well worth backing.
Standing in their way this weekend are the Detroit Red Wings. The visitors have struggled to inspire confidence this campaign – Jeff Blashill’s side were officially eliminated from the playoff race earlier this week. Detroit will be confident of bouncing back next year and the Red Wings could flourish with absolutely no pressure this weekend.
Matthews Makes Maple Leafs Magical
The Maple Leafs are looking ominously good and Stanley Cup glory is a distinct possibility this year. Toronto will need everybody to stay healthy throughout the postseason and there will be plenty of Canadian sports fans urging the Maple Leafs on.
Babcock will be urging his troops to be relentless this weekend and a dominant performance could be on the cards. Detroit are prone to capitulating on the road; Toronto can run riot in front of an expectant home crowd. Another win looks likely here and that should boost their chances of finishing as one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
KEY MAN: Auston Matthews. When Matthews is fit, Toronto are a completely different force. In fact, some would argue that he could be the difference between competing in the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup crown.
The former number one overall pick has been a hit since making the step up to professional level and it would be foolish to write him off. With 51 points in 54 games, he is one of the NHL’s elite talents and Matthews should shine against the Red Wings.
Red Wings On A Slippery Slope
Detroit have been abysmal in recent weeks, winning just once in their last 10 league games. It would take a brave man to back against the Maple Leafs with that in mind but the Red Wings are a strange team and they do tend to find their best form when you least expect it.
It is now mathematically impossible for Detroit to qualify for the playoffs and that may spell disaster for the organisation. Whilst some teams relish the chance to perform without any pressure, the Red Wings are heading in the wrong direction and a lack of confidence could be telling at Air Canada Centre.
KEY MAN: Dylan Larkin. With 53 points so far this season, Larkin leads the team – although that tally isn’t exactly eyebrow raising by any means. Detroit have struggled all year and the collective is valued more than the collective at Little Caesars Arena. Picking one player to stand out here is difficult…
Larkin notched three points in Detroit’s recent clash with the Philadelphia Flyers and plenty of punters will be expecting more of the same here. He isn’t an elite name in the National Hockey League but he is the man for the big stage on this Red Wings roster.
A straightforward enough contest to call. Toronto should have far too much for Detroit and Matthews will be licking his lips ahead of this clash. The Maple Leafs will win this one with room to spare.
MAPLE LEAFS 4-1 RED WINGS