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NHL Betting Preview: Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon Square Off Saturday as Leafs visit Avalanche

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Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas Martin
1 month ago
Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon will go head-to-head Saturday looking to continue making their respective cases for this years Hart Trophy. How would a 70+ goal campaign from Matthews weigh in against a 130 point season from MacKinnon?
The battle between Matthews and MacKinnon is a fun little narrative which is grabbing a lot of the headlines ahead of this game. More than Matthews continuing his torrid goal-scoring pace though, what Leafs fans would love to see more of is the well rounded team play that has lead to an 10-2-0 tear ahead of this matchup.
The Avalanche meanwhile have struggled to a mark of 4-4-2 over the last ten, and haven’t offered much support to their elite superstars in those games.
In this article, we’ll break down the relevant game notes ahead of this exciting matchup.

Maple Leafs vs. Avalanche Odds

  • Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds: -102
  • Avalanche Moneyline Odds: -115
  • Puck Line Odds: Leafs +1.5 (-238), Avalanche -1.5 (+187)
  • Game Total: 6.5 goals (over -139, under +112)
All odds courtesy of Betano.
Will the Leafs Avoid a Letdown Saturday Against One of the NHL’s Elite?
With ten wins in 12 games the Leafs have played their best hockey of the season by some margin ahead of this matchup. They own a +25 goal differential in those games, and have won eight of those games inside of regulation. Their underlying numbers from this heater are also quite strong, including a second best 57.64% expected goal share.
All of the biggest questions for the Leafs in recent years have revolved around commitment to winning, and mental toughness. This will be their fourth road game of the week, and third in three nights. Travelling out of Vegas for a game versus one of the leagues better teams is not an ideal spot, either.
This is a a great matchup for the Leafs to show some legitimate resolve, and not letdown in a spot which could be viewed as somewhat of a scheduled loss. Winning the division is not entirely out of the question, and would likely offer a significant competitive advantage.
Sheldon Keefe has found something with his current line configurations too, and it actually is fair to say that depth of the offensive core works in the Leafs favour in this matchup. Max Domi has come alive skating with William Nylander and Tyler Bertuzzi at even strength. The third unit of Bobby McMann, John Tavares, and Nick Robertson has been finding success as well, and continue production from those two units could be the difference in this game.
Ilya Samsonov will likely get the start Saturday. He has played to a .912 save % across ten starts since rejoining the team.
Are the Avalanche Potentially Overvalued Ahead of this Matchup?
Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews and Mikko Rantanen have worked wonders to cover up some flaws down the roster for the Avalanche this season. With Arturri Lehkonen back in the lineup they get a huge piece to help shore up the second unit, but their recent underlying process has still been far from convincing since his return.
In nine games since the All-Star break the Avalanche have played to a 9th worst expected goal share of 46.81%. They have lost six of those games straight up, and own a -8 goal differential. They have played a tough than average schedule in that sample, but it was clear that deeper offensive sides are capable of exposing their lack of depth right now.
Alexandar Georgiev is expected to start Saturday. He has played to a +5.2 goals saved above expected rating this season, despite holding a save % of only .889.

Best Bets for the Leafs

The Avalanche have a clear advantage in terms of the scheduling spot, as they catch the Leafs playing their third game in four nights and fourth road game of the week. Travelling out of Vegas after a big win into the mile-high city is far from ideal under any circumstances, too.
The Leafs have been getting far greater contributions from up-and-down the lineup though, and could use that strength to expose the concerning defensive form displayed by depth units of the Avalanche roster. The spot isn’t ideal for the Leafs at all, but their well rounded process in recent games deserves more credit than the current betting prices suggest.
My belief is this game should be priced as a pick-em, and at +105 there is value backing Toronto Saturday.

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