The New York Islanders are winners of six of their last seven games as they play host to the scuffling Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. New York has had a crazy 2021-22 campaign, which started with a season-opening 13-game road trip that was followed by a few big COVID outbreaks and an 11-game winless skid. Still, the Islanders are playing their best hockey as they try to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.
The Islanders swept a home-and-home sweep from Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week and then shut out the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Friday night. Ilya Sorokin was perfect in net, saving all 17 shots he faced, while Brock Nelson had a pair of goals and Scott Mayfield chipped in with a goal and an assist. New York more than doubled Arizona’s shots on goal, which is always a good sign.
Toronto, on the other hand, has lost two of its last three games on a six-game road trip that ends on Saturday. The Maple Leafs are coming off a rough 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night in which they gave up five unanswered goals after leading 3-1 early in the second period. Jack Campbell had another rough outing in net for Toronto, giving up five goals on 26 shots.
Game: Toronto Maple Leafs (24-10-3; 51 points) at New York Islanders (14-13-6; 34 points)
Location: UBS Arena
Day/Time: Saturday, January 22nd, 7:00 p.m. ET
Toronto Maple Leafs @ New York Islanders
Maple Leafs Due for Bounce-Back
This week or so hasn’t been a great one for Toronto, but the Maple Leafs are having a great season and are third in the Eastern Conference’s top-heavy Atlantic Division with a few games in hand. They’re eighth in goals scored per game, have the most efficient power play in hockey (tied with the St. Louis Blues), and have a top-seven penalty kill. Plus, Auston Matthews (25 goals and 16 assists) is tied for third in the NHL in goals and is having a historic offensive and defensive season.
On xGAR among forwards, Auston Matthews has provided the most offensive value in the NHL and the 2nd most defensive value. That would be the first time in the analytics era that someone finished in the top 2 in both offense AND defense.
— CJ Turtoro (@CJTDevil) January 19, 2022
There are a ton of reasons to like the Maple Leafs despite Campbell’s recent struggles — following a great start — and Toronto’s issues in the playoffs in the past couple of seasons. They’re a pretty well-rounded team and have had a few days off without any travel, which gives them an advantage over the Islanders who played on Friday night.
Toronto has also played a bunch of close games lately and hasn’t covered a puckline bet as a favorite in a few weeks after doing so regularly before the NHL’s holiday break. Look for that to change on Saturday night with backup Petr Mrazek in net to give Campbell a much-needed spell.
Islanders Likely Won’t Have Sorokin
Even though his starting goalie Sorokin wasn’t tested much by the Coyotes on Friday, Barry Trotz likely won’t have him start back-to-back nights. So, veteran Semyon Varlamov will probably get the nod for the Islanders which is a bit of a downgrade from Sorokin but not an extreme one.
Varlamov has been solid in limited playing time — his record is 3-6-1 but he has a 2.61 goals allowed average and .917 save percentage — but he hasn’t been nearly as good as he was last season and would face one of his hardest tests with the explosive Maple Leafs’ offense.
Look For Toronto To Win Big
If you’re betting online, you should take the Maple Leafs to win by two goals or more on the puckline. They have the rest advantage over the Islanders and even though both teams are going with backup goalies, that might be a good thing for Toronto with how much Campbell probably needs a break with how bad he’s been in recent games. It’s hard to hold down the Maple Leafs for long and they’re ready for a breakout offensive game.