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NHL picks: 4 best bets for Leafs vs Oilers


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Toronto Maple Leafs to win 

This trio of games was to be a measuring stick for the Edmonton Oilers. Over the first two games, however, they have not measured up, nor have they scored a goal. There’s very little chance Edmonton doesn’t put up a fight to salvage some points from this series, but there’s just not a whole lot of reason to pick them right now.

The Maple Leafs have been without top goal scorer Auston Matthews and yet have played well without him. Now the club may get him back for Wednesday’s game after he skated in practice on Tuesday. With or without Matthews, Toronto has been the better team to this point. Their defending in particular has been pretty strong, but they’ve also gotten really good goaltending.

The real wild card in the game is: who will the Maple Leafs turn to in net? Michael Hutchinson is an option after going 3-1-0 over his four starts with the club so far, including his 31-save shutout against Edmonton over the weekend. It was also revealed on Wednesday that Frederik Andersen could be available for the game in Edmonton. Backup Jack Campbell, who got the first of the two shutouts against Edmonton, will not be available.

Toronto has shown that they can defend Edmonton’s speed well and they don’t need their goalies to steal games for them. If Matthews is in the lineup, that’s just another boost to a Maple Leafs squad that is currently running away with the league. They are the class of the North Division and can prove that further with a statement sweep in Edmonton.

Over 6.5 total goals 

I would be absolutely stunned if the Oilers got shut out in three straight games. I just don’t see that happening, regardless of who Toronto has in net.

Meanwhile, the Oilers have been porous defensively and it looks like their inconsistent goaltending has reared its ugly head again. Toronto have scored at least three goals in four of the six previous meetings between these sides, including three games in which they netted four. 

Prior to this series, the Oilers’ offense had been rolling with 19 goals scored over their five-game winning streak. Edmonton had not been shut out all season before Toronto did it to them in back-to-back games, and I’m not sure any team can keep an explosive offense like Edmonton’s down for that long.

Connor McDavid to score a goal 

McDavid has had goal droughts of three or more games just twice so far this season. Having been held off the score sheet in two straight games, it’s going to be hard for the Maple Leafs to keep him off for a third. You can always count on the Edmonton captain to dig deep when his team needs a spark.

Over the six games against Toronto so far this season, McDavid has three goals and four assists. He’s also been more potent on home ice, with nine of his 14 goals this season coming in Edmonton. Look for Connor to open things up and do everything he can to avoid this sweep.

Over 58.5 total shots on goal 

I fully expect Edmonton to dig deep in a quest to avoid a third straight shutout. They’ve got to get a lot of shots on net regardless of who is between the pipes.

As a result, I think it might be tougher for Toronto to get their regular shot volume in a game like this, but Matthews being back could change the dynamic.

In the previous six meetings, the teams surpassed this mark three times. I expect Toronto to be a little more on the defensive as they look to slow down Edmonton’s attack and attempt to leave with a sweep.

It’s surprising that Toronto is averaging under 30 shots on goal per game, sitting 19th in the NHL in that category. Edmonton is 11th at 30.5 shots on goal per game, though they allow the fourth most shots against per game in the NHL.

With the expectation that Edmonton will try to open things up more, the Leafs should be able to make the most of their counter attacks. I think both teams will end up firing a lot of pucks on net, making the over seem likely.

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