It has been a difficult 2018/19 campaign for the New Jersey Devils. Languishing towards the bottom of the Metropolitan Division for most of the season, the Devils have struggled to put a run of results together.
Their record over the last 10 matches says it all: five wins and five defeats. Consistency is key to success in the National Hockey League and New Jersey look set to miss out on the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
Meanwhile, Toronto are performing admirably. Only the Calgary Flames (58) and Atlantic Division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning (66) have recorded more points than the Maple Leafs (55) in 2018/19. An impressive feat to say the least.
With veteran John Tavares, franchise star Auston Matthews and rising hero Mitchell Marner on the roster, the sky is the limit for Toronto. Mike Babcock will be quietly confident of a deep playoff run and perhaps a Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Toronto have won both meetings this season by a combined score of 13-3 and the Maple Leafs will fancy their chances of recording another victory here. Based on recent results, it is difficult to back against the Canadian outfit.
Without further ado, let’s get down to the contest. Toronto are in the ascendency but New Jersey are always capable of springing a shock. Taking that into account, we could be set for a fierce, competitive encounter at Prudential Center.
Talented Toronto Must Remain Focused
The Maple Leafs have lost three of their previous four league games and many ice hockey fans have put it down to a lapse in concentration. With a playoff berth more or less already in the bag, Toronto cannot allow complacency to sneak in.
To put their recent efforts into perspective, the Maple Leafs secured a five-goal shutout win over the Vancouver Canucks before suffering a 4-0 home defeat to the Nashville Predators. As good as the Predators are, that simply isn’t good enough from a Toronto viewpoint.
The main difference between Toronto and Tampa Bay is complacency. The Lightning have managed to stay focused on the task at hand whilst the Maple Leafs have been guilty of placing greater emphasis on upcoming games. You cannot afford to do that at this level.
At the time of writing, 10Bet are pricing Toronto at 10/1 to go on and lift the Stanley Cup title this year. The Maple Leafs have the quality to go all the way but Babcock must keep players grounded ahead of what could be a memorable postseason.
Devils Desperately Need Help In Key Areas
John Hynes managed to lead the Devils to the playoffs last year and he deserves another chance to take New Jersey to the next level. The Devils have tied him down to a multi-year contract extension and that should give the entire organisation a lift ahead of this clash.
Taylor Hall has once again been the standout name on this Devils roster but he was placed on injured reserve in December. Picking a New Jersey player to watch is a bit of a minefield and Toronto could assert their authority early on here.
This one has comfortable Maple Leafs victory written all over it. The Devils are languishing down near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and it is hard to see New Jersey turning things around with Hall absent.
Instead, opting for Toronto to prevail makes complete sense. The Maple Leafs are on the verge of something special and a convincing win should help to keep Tampa Bay on their toes at the top of the Atlantic Division.
TIP: Toronto Maple Leafs to win
CORRECT SCORE: New Jersey Devils 1-4 Toronto Maple Leafs