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My uneasy week continued last night as the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t fill the net enough for us to get OVER the 5.5 total. We were sitting pretty after two periods as the 2-2 score had us on pace to get over the total, however a scoreless third period sank our pick and the Buffalo Sabres escaped Philadelphia with two points thanks to a shootout victory. If anything, this week has shown us that this game can be as unpredictable as any other. St. Louis was thumped on their home ice and netted us a loss, six goals were scored in last 30 minutes of a Habs/Sens game that netted us a winner, and last night’s loss was another tough one to swallow as we were on pace for a win. With unpredictability a staple in all sports, the key is to use it to your advantage as opposed to letting it haunt you in your selections. I aim to do the former as I move forward with my NHL picks. Let’s look at tonight’s action that sees 14 teams in action.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Carolina Hurricanes
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+105)
Two teams that are fighting for position in the upcoming draft meet tonight in Raleigh, North Carolina as the Toronto Maple Leafs meet the Carolina Hurricanes for the third and final time this season. Carolina is a place where Toronto has struggled for the majority of the last few seasons as they have dropped five straight in Raleigh and have been outscored 14-3 in their last three meetings against the Hurricanes overall. Toronto has been a team known for trading chances with their opponent and banking on their ability to outscore the opposition as opposed to limiting chances on the back end. While that philosophy has changed under new Head Coach Peter Horachek, the results have not been there. Toronto gives up 3.02 goals per game which ranks 25th in the league, however at one point this season they were the league’s highest scoring team but have dropped to a still-respectable 2.74 goals per game. Most of that drop was seen in the games that followed after Randy Carlyle was fired as the team’s ability to score has picked up in recent weeks. The Hurricanes are not the efficient offensive team that they hoped when fielding a lineup that features Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner as injuries and inefficiencies have held this group back on the offensive side. However, this hasn’t been the case against Toronto. As mentioned Carolina has scored 14 goals over their last three contests against the Leafs and they have been firing a lot of shots on net lately despite sub-par results. Carolina has recorded at least 30 shots on goal in seven of their last eight games and when you register that many shots against Toronto, your odds of scoring at least three goals are pretty good. From Carolina’s perspective it also helps that the Leafs are averaging 32 shots against per game, 26th in the league. Also helping Carolina this evening is James Reimer getting the nod in goal for the Leafs as Reimer has stumbled to a 3.20 goals against average and .905 save percentage this season. Reimer has only one win and a .900 save percentage since the all-star break. Toronto can score goals and give up goals with the best of them. Go with the OVER 5.5 tonight between two teams who have minimal reasons to play defence this evening.