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NHL Betting Preview (April 8): Penguins vs Maple Leafs Odds

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas Martin
2 months ago
Kyle Dubas and the Penguins will head in Toronto looking to claim two critical points. The Penguins sit one point back of Detroit for the final Wildcard spot with each having played 77 games, and are two points back of the Islanders for the final Metropolitan berth.
Toronto demolished the Penguins 7-0 on December 16th, but suffered a 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh on November 25th.
I’ll outline the relevant game notes below, as well as hand out my best bet.

Penguins vs Maple Leafs Odds

  • Penguins Moneyline Odds: +130
  • Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds: -154
  • Puck Line Odds: Penguins +1.5 (-182), Maple Leafs -1.5 (+150)
  • Game Total: 6.5 goals (over -110, under -120)
Pittsburgh Penguins
The big talking point surrounding this game is whether or not Dubas has done a respectable job in Pittsburgh, as it seems most are either passionate that Dubas is a full fledged failure, or keen to defend him.
A fair assessment is probably right in the middle.
Right until Dubas ended up as Penguins GM, everybody was talking about how horrible of a situation the new manager would be inheriting.
Bringing in Erik Karlsson while shipping out some bad contracts has to be viewed as a positive, and as the Penguins have pushed for the playoffs Karlsson has been tremendous. However, Ryan Graves contract looks to be a full fledged disaster, and the Penguins defensive results have actually improved considerably since his injury. Noel Acciari’s contract is also a clear miss, and Reilly Smith has also been middling.
The overall return for Jake Guentzel also seemed underwhelming, although I would argue the return for most deadline sellers looked was less than expected aside from what Elias Lindholm and Adam Henrique drew in. Michael Bunting has been critical to the Pens’ playoff push, which is an important note when handicapping their current power-rating.
The Penguins are playing a slightly better than league average brand of hockey, and are  justifiably entrenched in one of the softest Wildcard races in history as a result. Their bottom six currently looks better than it has at previous times this season, but it’s still the top-six doing the heavy lifting over their current 6-2-2 run.
They have played to a 50.78% expected goal share over the last ten, and own a +8 goal differential in that span.
Sidney Crosby’s play is drawing a ton of attention and rightfully so, but Evgeni Malkin has also been far more productive down the stretch. Malkin has put up 11 points over his last 10 games, including a dominant three point effort Sunday.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7GeoditpbA
Malkin has found chemistry alongside Michael Bunting and Rickard Rakell at even strength. In 131.9 minutes together at even strength, the trio has generated 3.73 xGoals for per 60 minutes of action.
Ryan Shea has provided a boost to the Penguins third pairing, but is likely to miss this matchup due to an immigration issue.
Alex Nedeljkovic has been confirmed as the Penguins starter for this matchup. He has played to a +1.8 GSAx and .907 save % across 33 appearances this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs put together a quality win in Montreal Saturday, and it appears likely that Sheldon Keefe will employ the same offensive lines in tonight’s matchup as a result.
Depth scoring has always been an issue in the Leafs recent playoff failures, and in theory their current configuration could help solve that issue. Whether or not that proves true when it matters remains to be seen, but the Leafs have continued to play like a true contender over the last several weeks.
Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi and Auston Matthews continue to makeup a legitimately strong top unit. As a result, Keefe is afforded the luxury of skating Mitch Marner and William Nylander on the second and third lines.
Morgan Rielly and Ilya Lyubushkin will remain together on the top pairing, and it seems likely that will be the case for Game One of the postseason. The same can be said for the second unit of Simon Benoit and Jake McCabe, and it seems at this point the third pairing is the area up for most debate among Leafs brass.
Ilya Samsonov has been confirmed as the Leafs starter for this matchup. He has played to a .893 save % and 3.03 GAA across 37 appearances this season, but continues to improve those marks with his recent play.
Best Bets for Penguins vs Maple Leafs:
This is a gigantic spot for the Penguins, while the Leafs are realistically playing for very little if you analyze what home-ice has actually meant in the playoffs, or consider that Florida might be a worse opponent than Boston. Still, these betting lines look sharp when you consider how well Toronto has played for a significant sample.
A number that did jump out to me was Evgeni Malkin to record a point at -128. Malkin has found chemistry alongside Bunting and Rakell at even strength, and enters off his best game of the season Sunday. The Pens’ bottom six has been far less awful recently, but we should still count on big minutes in most game scripts for Malkin if he continues to look engaged, as we have seen of late.
Backing Bunting to record over 2.5 shots on goal at +135 is also worth a look. He’s hit that mark in 8/16 games as a Penguin, and as noted is on a line creating lots of chances alongside Malkin and Rakell. His shot on goal output has trended lower over the last several games, but given his current usage that sample should be somewhat of an outlier.
Best Bet: Evgeni Malkin Over 0.5 Points -128 (Play to -135)

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