Toronto (51-20-6) has won four in a row and all but wrapped up second place in the Atlantic Division, which will give the Maple Leafs home ice in at least the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs are 8-1-1 over the past ten and playing their best hockey at the right time. Hart Trophy favorite Auston Matthews has missed the past couple of games with an undisclosed injury. He is still two goals short of a historic 60-goal season. Even if Matthews doesn’t play, Toronto is no less dangerous with talented forward Mitchell Marner (34 G, 61 A), William Nylander (32 G, 44 A), and John Tavares (26 G, 49 A).
Tampa Bay (46-22-8) has also clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Lightning are stumbling heading into the postseason. They’ve gone 4-4-2 in the past ten and suffered a disappointing 4-3 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Since the beginning of March, the Lightning are 3-10-1 against teams either in the playoffs or still in playoff contention. Despite their struggles, Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos (33 G, 54 A) has seven points over the past three games and is one point from becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Talented winger Nikita Kucherov (19 G, 33 A) has also gotten hot, scoring eight goals in the past nine games.
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning
Game odds on DraftKings Sportsbook, picks & predictions
Puck line: Lightning -1.5 (+200), Maple Leafs +1.5 (-225)
Total: Over 7 (+110), Under 7 (-130)
Moneyline odds: Maple Leafs -105, Lightning -115
Best bet: Under 7 (-130)
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper really called out his team, especially the veterans, after Tuesday’s loss to Detroit. Tampa Bay has a much better defensive game than what they have shown and Thursday night is the time it needs to come out. Toronto will be a little easier to defend if Matthews isn’t in the lineup, but not much. I expect Tampa Bay to be more disciplined in clearing pucks taking away the middle of the ice. I can see this one going down to the wire with overtime or a shootout to decide things.
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