March 23, 2023

Colorado Avalanche vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Preview and Picks

No disrespect to the Chicago Blackhawks, but I think the hockey world is a better place now that we’re done with them on primetime. What better teams to replace them with than two of the top contenders in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs

The Avs have built some momentum over their recent sample, but they’ll face resistance from a surging Leafs squad looking to stay in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic Division.

Avalanche @ Maple Leafs Game Information

  • Location: Scotiabank Arena | Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Time: 7:00 pm ET | TV: TNT

Colorado enters tonight’s inter-conference matchup with wins in three of their past four. The Avalanche have seen an uptick in production, resulting in increased output over the modest sample.

The Avs are averaging 30.3 scoring chances per game over their recent sample. Moreover, they’ve eclipsed double-digits in high-danger opportunities in two of their last three, a benchmark that should continue to improve with their roster back to full health.

The uptick in scoring is coming from a sustainable place, and it’s tilted the expected goals-for ratings in the Avalanche’s favor. Unless the Leafs out-perform their recent defensive metrics, that improved play will likely continue on Wednesday.

Avalanche @ Maple Leafs Odds on FanDuel

  • Spread: Avalanche +1.5 (-194) | Maple Leafs -1.5 (+160)
  • Moneyline: Avalanche +118 | Maple Leafs -142
  • Total: Over 6.5 (-112) | Under 6.5 (-108)

The Maple Leafs remain one of the top analytics teams in the NHL; however, they’ve stumbled over the past few weeks. Toronto has given up ten or more quality chances in seven of their previous nine to fall outside of the top ten in high-danger chances allowed. Worse, they’ve out-chanced opponents just twice over that stretch. 

Coupled with diminished offensive production, the Leafs have been outplayed in all but one of their last six. Across that sample, the Leafs are averaging 6.7 quality opportunities per game while giving up 11.8 for a 36.0% high-danger chance rating.

Irrespective of the opponent or venue, the Maple Leafs are getting outplayed nightly.

Avalanche @ Maple Leafs Picks

  • Avalanche +118
  • Cale Makar Any Time Goal Scorer +290

Toronto will eventually break out of its slump, but it’s not worth laying chalk betting it happens against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Analytically, these teams are positioned on opposite ends of the spectrum, and it’s worth backing the better team at an underdog price. 

At least part of Colorado’s success should be attributed to Cale Makar, who has flourished since returning to the lineup at the start of the month. The reigning Norris Trophy winner has ten points over his last five games, recording two goals and 14 shots on net.

Of course, that output is validated by elite analytics. Despite playing 14 fewer games than his teammates, Makar ranks third on the team in scoring and high-danger chances. Further, he’s got the best scoring and high-danger chance ratings among players who have played at least 35 games, resulting in the top-rated expected goals-for percentage.

Considering his fine form, we’re backing Makar as a value play in the any-time goal scorer market, backing the Avs’ rearguard at +290.

Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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