Schneider takes a stab at stifling Matthews
Having gone 6-1-3 in their past 10 games, the Maple Leafs are preparing for a legitimate postseason push for the first time since 2013. But can Cory Schneider obstruct Toronto’s path tonight?
New Jersey and its No. 1 netminder will play host to Mike Babcock’s club at 7:30 p.m. ET. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Leafs odds of -135 to emerge victorious. Conversely, the Devils represent +115 underdogs.
Buoyed by the offensive wizardry of rookies Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, Toronto’s (17-12-8) bid to regain relevance in the Eastern Conference seems to be well ahead of schedule. The team averages the fourth-most goals (3.03) in hockey, with Matthews trailing only Sidney Crosby, Patrik Laine and Jeff Carter in terms of individual tallies. Babcock, though, most wants to see his troops tighten the defensive screws. They’ve surrendered 10 markers between the last two contests.
On the other side, Schneider’s trying to step up his efforts following an uncharacteristically pedestrian start. The former All-Star owns a 12-12-5 record with a 2.74 GAA and .908 save percentage. Yet, Schneider has stopped 51 of the last 52 pucks thrown his way.
The Leafs’ sheer speed presents matchup nightmares for countless foes. New Jersey (16-16-7) definitely falls into that category, particularly if rock-solid blueliner Andy Greene (hand) can’t suit up. The home squad also wouldn’t appear to possess enough skill up front to survive an east-west track meet; however, Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen’s current rut of sorts could well ensure a barnburner.
FRIDAY NHL FREE PICK: MAPLE LEAFS/DEVILS OVER 5.5 GOALS