By W.G. Ramirez
Vegas hits the ice after an impressive 3-0 win over Carolina on Saturday, as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury notched his 50th career shutout and the team responded to a closed-door meeting called by coach Gerard Gallant one day prior.
”It’s good to get everybody on the same page,” Fleury said after the win. “We knew that coming home before a four-game road trip, this is important to play a big game and get those points.”
Now it’s time to see if Gallant’s words can reverberate at Toronto, one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference this season. The Maple Leafs snapped a two-game slide on Saturday by knocking off the Penguins in Pittsburgh, 5-0.
Toronto was +120 on Saturday, and improved to 3-0 when installed as the underdog. The Maple Leafs, however, come into this one 6-5 as the favorite. Vegas is 1-4 as an underdog this year, and is 2-5-0 with a suitcase in hand.
Value in the Knights
With Auston Matthews on the injured list for Toronto, it helps Vegas out and gives a bit of insight as to why the Leafs aren’t heavier favorites. With their star center on ice, Toronto is at least -150. With the fourth lines still bolstering the offense, Vegas has the tools to pull off a road upset if the second and third lines can produce. Don’t be surprised to see Cody Eakin get involved, as two of his three goals this season have been on the road.
Value in the Leafs
Toronto is 9-5-0 on the year, but is just 3-5-0 at home. The absence of Matthews will be a struggle, but the Leafs still have John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Mitchell Marner to pace the offense. The key will be to get to Fleury early and often. We’ve seen the 15-year veteran fold quite easily once opponents pepper him and find the back of the net early. Toronto, which is 5-3-0 against the Western Conference this season, is 12-for-39 (30.8 percent) on the power play this season - fourth in the league overall. That’s a huge advantage on special teams, considering the Knights rank 28th with a man advantage.
Toronto has played Under nine straight games, as its contests have averaged 4.67 goals per game. Vegas has stayed low in eight of its last 10, mainly because of its lack of offense. With Fleury coming off the shutout, and the Leafs missing Matthews, it might not be a bad idea to look at playing this one under 5.5 goals.
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas who covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez